The West Virginia Mountaineers won their home opener Wednesday, downing the Canisius Golden Griffins 8-1 in Morgantown.
True freshman Gavin Van Kempen, a 20th round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals last summer, was lights out in his first start for the Mountaineers.
Left-handed Canisius right fielder Jackson Strong led off the game with a homer against the right-handed Van Kempen. It was the only run Van Kempen allowed, as he responded by turning in 5.2 innings, punching out eight without allowing a walk.
Catcher Dayne Leonard had a strong day behind the dish, throwing out three of four would-be base stealers to support his pitching staff.
West Virginia didn’t waste time responding. Center fielder Braden Barry led off the home half with a single, and second baseman JJ Wetherholt homered to right-center to make it 2-1.
Neither team managed much of a scoring threat until the fifth inning. Van Kempen allowed a double and a hit by pitch, but struck out the side to put up a zero for the frame.
Shortstop Tevin Tucker doubled in the bottom of the inning, advancing on a bunt single before Wetherholt brought him home with a sacrifice fly that made it 3-1.
The Mountaineers drew a pair of two-out walks in the sixth, and Barry blew the game open with a three-run blast.
Wetherholt doubled, Leonard walked, and Caleb McNeely added an RBI single that made it 7-1.
Mountaineers’ freshman lefty Maxx Yehl went 1.2 scoreless innings in the late stages of the game.
Wetherholt and Leonard hit back-to-back ground rule doubles in the eighth to stretch the lead to 8-1.
Senior Jake Carr added a scoreless ninth to finish off the Golden Griffins.
The win moves West Virginia to 7-4 on the season and allowed Country Roads to be hears at the Monongalia County Ballpark for the first time this season. Up next is a weekend series against Minnesota in Morgantown, starting at 3pm Friday.
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