Baseball: Altemus Delivers in Tight Win
By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In a game that was tightly contested in the latter innings, senior Andy Altemus provided quality relief while the West Virginia University baseball team notched the game-winning run in the seventh inning to defeat Bethune-Cookman, 6-5, on Wednesday evening at Hawley Field.
Altemus (5-5), a Morgantown native, broke the single-season school record with his 24th appearance as he entered the contest with one out in the seventh. Facing a team that boasted a .344 batting average heading into tonight’s game, Altemus immediately induced a critical fielder’s choice as third baseman Grant Buckner fielded the ball and threw out Justin Hoyte at home plate. Jeremy Davis’ double put runners on the corners, and Ryan Durrence hit an RBI infield single that was charged as an unearned run, tying the game at 5-5.
The senior responded by striking out All-America candidate Pat O’Brien to end the frame. In the bottom half, Chris Rasky led off with an infield single and advanced on a throwing error by first baseman Durrence. Mark Dvoroznak then assisted with the game-winning run when he lay down a well-placed bunt single, causing pitcher Joey Munoz to make an errant throw toward first base and plate Rasky.
Altemus closed the lid on the ballgame from there. He surrendered a leadoff double to DJ Leonard to begin the eighth, but stranded him as he induced two infield groundouts and an inning-ending strikeout by Brandon Turner.
A 1-2-3 ninth inning sealed the contest as Altemus struck out leadoff batter Hoyte, forced Juan Perez into a groundout at third base and caused Davis to fly out to right field to end the game. Altemus finished the game tossing 2.2 innings and allowing no earned runs on three hits with three strikeouts.
“Andy stepped up for us again tonight. He threw his pitches well and didn’t rattle when Bethune-Cookman got some early base hits off him,” coach Greg Van Zant said. “He’s been a huge asset to our pitching staff since he’s been here and delivered another good performance tonight.”
Junior Jedd Gyorko produced his ninth career four-hit game, tying a career high. He recorded consecutive doubles in the second and third innings and singled in the first and seventh frames. He now has 104 career extra-base hits and is one shy of tying former Mountaineer Justin Jenkins for the school record.
Rasky finished 3-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored. Jeremy Gum continued his hot performance at the dish, going 2-for-4 with one RBI. Reigning NCBWA National Hitter of the Week Grant Buckner extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a bloop double in the second inning, scoring Brady Wilson to give the Mountaineers a 4-0 lead.
“Our offense has improved tremendously over the last month,” Van Zant added. “We’ve been having different players step up, and that’s what we’ll need to have if we want to play postseason baseball.”
WVU produced 14 base hits overall, its fourth consecutive game with a double-digit hit total. Its early offense aided starter Michael Twigg, who took a no-decision after throwing 6.1 innings and allowing two earned runs on four strikeouts and five hits. It was the second-longest outing of Twigg’s career, only bested by his 6.2 innings thrown against Maryland on April 7.
Twigg kept his pitch count relatively low throughout the game, and played a large role in holding a nationally-ranked offense to an uncharacteristic 8-for-35 performance.
WVU built a lead in the bottom of the first when Gum lined a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Gyorko, making it 1-0. Gyorko led off with an infield single to the shortstop, and Dom Hayes followed with another infield single to the same spot. The inning was kept alive when Alejandro Sanchez bobbled Grant Buckner’s ball at shortstop, and Hayes later scored on a throwing error by catcher Peter O’Brien to give WVU a 2-0 lead. Rasky capped the frame with an RBI double down the left field line.
Wilson extended WVU’s lead to 5-0 in the third inning when he took a pitch to right field for a sacrifice fly, scoring Griffin from third base. Griffin led off the inning with a double to right field, then advanced to third base on a fielder’s choice-sacrifice bunt from Rasky.
The Wildcats (32-20) cut their deficit to 5-2 in the fourth inning on a deep two-run home run from Leonard. Perez brought in a run on a fielder’s choice at third base, and a double steal was executed in the seventh that allowed Bethune-Cookman to score from third base, making it 5-4.
Munoz (2-3) took the loss after allowing one run on three hits in 1.1 innings pitched. Bethune-Cookman used five pitchers in tonight’s contest.
WVU travels to Bethesda, Md., for a critical three-game series against Georgetown beginning on Friday at 7:05 p.m. WVU remains two games behind Notre Dame for the coveted eighth-place spot in the conference standings.