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West Virginia Walks Eight, Loses Home-Opener to Central Michigan 5-3



Jackson Wolf
(photo via

Despite hosting Central Michigan for its home-opener, West Virginia’s biggest enemy Friday afternoon was itself as the Mountaineers walked five CMU batters, hit two more and committed two errors in the 5-3 loss.

It was WVU’s (4-4) first game back from a week-long COVID pause, last playing a game on Feb. 28. On the other side, it was the fourth win in a row for CMU (4-4), which has also had a few games canceled this season due to COVID.

West Virginia starter Jackson Wolf started the game well, striking out three CMU batters across two perfect innings to begin the game. WVU first baseman Matt McCormick lined a ball into the right-field corner in the bottom of the second for a two-RBI double, that scored Austin Davis and Ben Abernathy and gave WVU a 2-0 lead.

After the second, however, Wolf lost his command. Wolf walked the bases loaded in both the third and fourth innings. He danced out of trouble in the third thanks to a double play but surrendered a sacrifice fly and a two-run triple in the fourth that gave the Chippewas a 3-2 lead.

WVU assistant coach Steve Sabins said after the game that Wolf was not very sharp Friday, still working his way back from missing a start last weekend with the COVID pause.

“Obviously he missed a start and it’s a little bit hard, it’s like you’re starting the season over again,” Sabins said. “His slider wasn’t quite as sharp, his fastball velocity was really good but his command wasn’t quite as good…It’s just getting back out there, pitching, competing.”

Sabins was filling in for WVU coach Randy Mazey, who missed the game due to a family emergency.

Wolf pitched into the sixth inning but was lifted after walking the leadoff batter. That batter would eventually come around to score and Wolf’s final line was four runs, three earned, in five innings with five strikeout, five walks and a hit batter.

Noah Short and Ben Hapmtom followed Wolf out of WVU’s bullpen and each turned in a scoreless inning. Junior Madison Jeffrey had an uneasy start to the eighth, loading the bases on an error and two walks. He allowed one run on an infield single but retired the next three to escape the jam.

“[The pitchers] just got better the longer they went,” Sabins said. “It looked like Carter [Lyles] got better later, Madison Jeffrey got better a little bit later in his outing, Wolf, at the end of the fourth, found his fastball command.”

Lyles pitched a scoreless top of the ninth despite allowing two hits.

Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth, McCormick led off the inning with an opposite-field home run, his fourth of the season, over the left-field fence that cut the lead to 5-3. The next three WVU batters were retired in order and CMU picked up the victory. Wolf (1-1, 2.12) took the loss.

CMU’s Jordan Patty (1-0, 5.65) got the win pitching seven innings allowing two runs and four hits with eight punch-outs. Sophomore Ian Leatherman pitched the final two innings for the Chippewas, striking out three and getting the save, his second.

McCormick finished the game 2 for 4 with a double and a home run and three RBI. McCormick also made a difficult catch in the eighth inning, ranging into foul territory to catch a pop-up that had him run up against the half-wall around home plate.

“It was an unbelievable catch,” Sabins said. “For him to be playing first and to catch a ball all the way back that’s normally a catcher’s ball, it was unbelievable. And it’s a sign of leadership because we had a freshman catcher who was starting his first game in college.”

Shortstop Mikey Kluska was the only other Mountaineer who had multiple hits, finishing 2 for 4.

WVU and CMU will play a doubleheader to complete their three-game series on Saturday. The first game will start at 11 a.m. WVU’s Jake Carr (0-1, 23.63) will face CMU’s Ander Taylor (1-1, 0.75).

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