MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A nine-run first inning and a season-high four home runs aided the West Virginia University baseball team to a 14-7 win over Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon at Hawley Field.
The win gives WVU the series win and moves the Mountaineers into sole possession of third place in the BIG EAST Conference standings.
“I don’t have the vocabulary to express how big it was for us to be able to win this series,” coach Greg Van Zant said. “Last year, when they swept us the weekend before finals, it was a long ride home and we were 3-15 in the conference, to be able to come back and win this series is big.
Redshirt senior Grant Buckner started the first inning scoring with a three-run home run to left field, his team-leading seventh of the season. The blast extended his streak of reaching base to 40 games, tops in the BIG EAST. Buckner drove in both sophomore Brady Wilson and senior Justin McDavid, giving WVU a 3-1 lead.
By the end of the inning, West Virginia sent 13 batters to the plate and scored nine runs on eight hits. Sophomore Brady Wilson drove in two runs, while freshman Ryan McBroom, freshman Isac Franklin and redshirt senior Jeremy Gum each drove in one run. Buckner finished the inning with four RBIs, hitting a single to left field in his second at bat of the inning.
“In the first inning they don’t catch a popup in foul territory by McDavid and then McDavid hits into a double play and they don’t make it,” Van Zant said. “To our hitters credit, that what good teams do, if there is an opening you take advantage and we just strung together a big inning.”
After a scoreless bottom of the second, the WVU offense was back at it in the third inning when Wilson led off the inning with a home run to left field, his third hit of the afternoon and his second home run of the season. Buckner and McDavid each scored after a throwing error by the Cincinnati pitcher on a sacrifice bunt by Gum. Gum was able to hustle to third base on the play.
Gum and redshirt freshman T.J. Kuban hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the eighth. Gum’s fourth of the season went just inside the right field foul pole, while Kuban’s second of the season went just inside the left field foul pole.
Wilson and Gum each had three hits, while Buckner, Kuban, McBroom and Franklin all had two hits. Wilson also had three runs and three RBIs and Buckner had two runs and four RBIs.
WVU (27-19, 13-8) finished with 14 runs on 15 hits with two errors. Cincinnati (25-21, 11-10) committed five errors and scored seven runs on 16 hits.
Right-handed senior Andy Berry (7-2) pitched eight innings for the Mountaineers, marking the fifth time he has gone at least eight innings this season. Berry allowed five earned runs on 14 hits and struck out five.
“I had a rough couple of innings, but our hitters did a great job,” Berry said. “I think we had five back-to-back hits and 10 hits in the first inning alone, that’s just a real good job by every one of our hitters.”
Nick Johnson, the Bearcat starting pitcher, lasted just 0.2 innings, allowing nine runs on eight hits. Both of Johnson’s outs came on strikeouts. Cincinnati used four relievers, with Zach Isler pitching four innings of perfect ball.
The Bearcat offense was paced by Justin Riddell who went 4 for 5 with three runs, a RBI and a double. Justin Glass batted 2 for 5 with a home run to right field. Braden Kline and Matt Williams each recorded two hits for Cincinnati.
West Virginia will now travel to Akron for the final non-conference game of the season with the Zips on Tuesday, May 10 at 3 p.m.