The time of Alek Manoah and Nick Snyder on the mound for West Virginia is over, but that does not mean the Mountaineers will not have good starting pitchers this season. In the 2020 opener Friday night against Jacksonville, pitcher Jackson Wolf pitched a gem en route to the WVU victory.
The junior lefty pitched seven full innings, allowing only one hit and hitting one batter while striking out eight on 97 pitches. Wolf was in dominant form against the Dolphins Other than a hit batter in the first inning and a double in the seventh, Wolf set down every other batter he faced. In innings two, three, four, five and six Wolf put Jacksonville down in order.
With Wolf keeping the Dophins’ bat quite, the Mountaineers just needed to push across some runs. Jacksonville’s Trent Palmer was nearly as impressive as Wolf, however, spinning five scoreless innings of his own.
The Mountaineers left two runners on base in the first inning but did not have another baserunner until freshman Matt McCormack walked in the fourth inning. A pair of strikeouts stranded McCormack at first, however.
WVU’s next hit did not come until the fifth, on a Tevin Tucker bunt. Freshman Victor Scott had reached on an error and advanced to third on Tucker’s bunt. Tucker stole second to put runners at second and third with just one out and the top of the order coming up.
With runners in scoring position, left fielder Braden Zarbnisky hit the ball back to the pitcher, Palmer, who threw to third to get Scott out on a fielder’s choice. Second baseman Tyler Doanes would strikeout looking to end the West Virginia threat.
After another quiet inning in the sixth, the Mountaineers threatened again in the seventh. Third baseman Kevin Brophy lead of with a single and Scott walked to put two runners on. Right fielder Austin Davis bunted the pair over, but Tucker struck out with both runners in scoring position for the second out. Zarbnisky would not let another opportunity get away, however, singling up the left-field line following a pitching change to score both Brophy and Scott and give WVU a 2-0 lead.
The Mountaineers added a third run in the eighth on a Scott sacrifice fly that scored catcher Paul McIntosh who had doubled two batters earlier.
With a 3-0 lead, sophomore Zach Ottinger relieved Wolf in the eighth inning. The Dolphins would get runners on via a hit by pitch and walk, but Ottinger preserved the lead heading into the ninth. To start the ninth inning, Ottinger allowed a single and a double to put two runners in scoring position with only one out. Ottinger was then lifted for the two-way player Zarbnisky.
Zarbnisky struck out the next two batters to end the game and secure the win. He finished with two hits, two RBI, a stolen base and the save, striking out both batters he faced.
Brophy was the only other Mountaineers with a multi-hit day and Scott had the only other RBI. Wolf moves to 1-0 on the new season with the victory. The Mountaineers and Dolphins play game two Saturday at 2 p.m. The Pitching matchup will be sophomore Ryan Bergert for WVU against Jacksonville’s Tyler Santana.