WACO, Texas – The West Virginia University baseball team won a back-and-forth affair, 6-5, to win the series at No. 10 Baylor on Saturday afternoon at Baylor Ballpark.
The Mountaineers (10-7, 2-0 Big 12 Conference) won their first conference series of the season, scoring six runs on 12 hits while holding the Bears (15-3, 0-2) to five runs on seven hits. WVU improved to 4-0 against teams ranked in the top-25 and goes for its second weekend sweep of the season tomorrow at noon ET/11 a.m. CT, in Waco.
“All the games we play early in the season on the road kind of hardens you a little bit,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “It toughens your team up a little bit. We lost some of those games, but that’s experience nonetheless. Playing in a lot of tight games late as the road team and you just learn how to win them. Every time they scored, we answered. It got late in the game, we made some big plays defensively and came out with a win.”
The Mountaineers had runners reach base in all but one inning and never trailed. West Virginia took an early 3-0 lead, but Baylor chipped away until eventually tying the game at 5-5 in the seventh inning.
WVU answered in the ninth inning though, thanks to a two-out RBI single by sophomore third baseman Cole Austin. With the bases loaded and a new pitcher in for the Bears, Austin singled to center to score freshman pinch runner TJ Lake. The go-ahead run put the Mountaineers ahead for good, 6-5.
WVU handed BU just its third loss of the year at home and first series defeat of the season.
Along with his game-winning RBI, Austin had a career-high-tying four hits and extended his hitting streak to a career-best nine games. Three Mountaineers had two hits, highlighted by sophomore Kyle Gray. The second baseman had two hits and three RBIs, both season-highs.
Sophomore right-hander Michael Grove got the start and pitched 5.0 innings, allowing two unearned runs on three hits with five strikeouts and two walks. Reliever Braden Zarbnisky earned his second win of the season, pitching the final two innings and allowing just one hit.
The Mountaineers got on the board with three runs in the second inning. Sophomore right fielder Darius Hill led off the inning with a single and scored from third on a single by freshman catcher Chase Illig. Sophomore shortstop Jimmy Galusky followed with a single to put two on, and with two outs, Gray tripled to right field to bring in Galusky and Illig.
Grove stranded a runner in the bottom of the second and had the help of a caught-stealing to face the minimum in the third before Baylor scored two unearned runs in the fourth to cut the WVU lead to 3-2. With two outs and two runners on, a fielding error scored the first run and a single plated the second.
West Virginia bounced right back though, with a run in the top of the fifth and another in the sixth to make it 5-2. With two outs in the fifth inning, senior first baseman Jackson Cramer was hit by a pitch and a single advanced him to second. He scored on Hill’s single through the right side, sliding in just under the tag of the Baylor catcher.
In the sixth, Gray doubled with two outs to score Illig, who led off the inning with a single. Gray’s second extra-base hit of the day extended the WVU lead to 5-2.
Baylor again cut into the Mountaineer advantage with two runs in the sixth. With freshman right-hander Isaiah Kearns on the mound for Grove, a double was followed by a two-run home run by Kameron Esthay.
The Bears tied the game at 5-5 in the seventh. With the bases loaded and one out, senior righty Jackson Sigman relieved Kearns and got a ground ball, but WVU couldn’t turn the double play, and an unearned run scored.
As they did all game though, the Mountaineers responded with Austin’s single in the ninth put the Mountaineers back on top for good.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, a Baylor baserunner reached second base with one out, but he was picked off, Illig to Galusky, and Zarbnisky got a strikeout for the game’s final out.
The series at Baylor Ballpark concludes on Sunday at noon ET/11 a.m. CT on FCS Central. Fans can listen to the game on the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG on WMMN 920 AM in Morgantown/Fairmont, and online at WVUsports.com. Links to a live stream, radio broadcast and live stats can be found on the baseball schedule page on WVUsports.com.
Additional behind-the-scenes updates, news and notes from Waco can be found on social media by following and connecting with the team at @WVUBaseball on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
NOTES: WVU improved to 10-7 on the season, 2-0 on Big 12 Conference play and 4-0 vs. teams ranked in the top-25 … West Virginia takes an 8-6 lead in the all-time series against Baylor and the series in Waco is tied, 4-4 … WVU handed Baylor it’s third home loss of the season in 13 games and its first series loss of the year … West Virginia plays for its second weekend sweep of the season on Sunday … Cole Austin extended his hitting streak to a career-high nine games, the second-longest streak by a Mountaineer in 2017, with a career-high-tying four hits, including the game-winner in the ninth inning … Kyle Gray had a season-high two hits and three RBIs … Braden Zarbnisky earned his second with of the season, pitching 2.0 innings and allowing one hit … Starter Michael Grove pitched 5.0 innings and allowed two unearned runs on three hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
Season tickets, single game tickets, flex plan tickets and mini packs for the 2017 WVU baseball season are on sale now. Fans can purchase tickets by calling 1-800-WVU GAME, going to WVUGAME.com or visiting the Mountaineer Ticket Office in the WVU Coliseum. The 2017 schedule is available on WVUsports.com.