MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With two outs and a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the ninth, West Virginia first baseman Justin McDavid hit a walk-off single scoring Grant Buckner to give the Mountaineers a 5-4 win over Illinois in the final game of the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge at Al Lang Field in Clearwater, Fla.
“It was an entertaining game to watch and a fun game to coach,” coach Greg Van Zant said. “Both teams played very hard and it was a back and forth game, fortunately we came out on top.”
Buckner opened the final frame drawing a walk off Illinois reliever Matt Milroy. Matt Frazer provided a sacrifice bunt advancing Buckner to second. Following a Matt Malloy ground out, McDavid singled to left center scoring Buckner and giving the Mountaineers their second win of the young season.
“It was a big win giving us two out of three wins this weekend. I was especially proud of how we competed and played hard the whole game,” Van Zant said. “The difference in today’s game was we got big bunts down when we needed to and clutch hitting.”
Despite giving up the game-tying run in the top of the ninth, Michael Twigg (1-0) earned the win in 4.1 inning of relief, giving up three hits and two earned runs, while striking out three. Andy Berry started the game for the Mountaineers, providing a quality start in 4.2 innings of work. Berry finished his outing with three strikeouts, while allowing two earned runs on three hits.
Brady Wilson led the team offensively going 4-for-4 at the plate and scoring one run. McDavid and Dan DiBartolomeo had three and two hits apiece, respectively, while both knocked in two RBIs.
West Virginia (2-1) finished with five runs on 16 hits and no errors, while Illinois (1-2) had four runs on six hits, with one error.
A third inning DiBartolomeo single up the middle scored Wilson from second to give West Virginia a 1-0 opening lead.
Malloy singled to start the fourth inning, followed by a sacrifice bunt from McDavid to advance Malloy. T.J. Kuban singled through the left side of the infield to score Malloy.
Illinois scored two runs in the top of the fifth after a walk to Casey McMurray and then back-to-back triples from Davis Hendrickson and Josh Parr. Twigg then entered the game for Berry and was able to get the third out of the inning.
Buckner opened the bottom of the fifth with a single, which was followed by a bunt single from Frazer and a sacrifice but from Malloy advancing Buckner to third and Frazer to second. A single up the middle from McDavid scored Buckner to put West Virginia up 3-2.
Illinois tied it up again at 3-3 in the top of the sixth on a Thomas Shelton bases loaded bunt that scored Matt Dittman.
In the bottom half of the inning, Mark Dvoroznak led off the inning with a double down the right field line. Dvoroznak advanced to third after a Wilson sacrifice bunt, which was followed by DiBartolomeo’s sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Dvoroznak.
After Twigg recorded the first two Illinois outs of the top of ninth, he hit Josh Parr with a pitch. Josh Parr stole second and his brother Justin Parr singled to right field to score Josh Parr.
Josh Parr led the Fighting Illini with two hits and an RBI. Pete Cappetta and Hendrickson also each had an RBI.
West Virginia will be in action next weekend in the Hughes Brothers Challenge in Wilmington, N.C. The Mountaineers will take on Miami (Ohio) on Friday at noon, Marist on Saturday at noon and UNC Wilmington on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. WVU will then travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., to take on Wake Forest on Monday at 4 p.m.