MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University baseball team was edged at No. 21 Maryland, 7-6, on Tuesday afternoon in College Park, Maryland, to begin a four-game stretch against ranked opponents.
On a hot, sun-soaked day at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, the Mountaineers (19-12) scored three runs in the first inning and led 4-0 after three, but the Terrapins (21-10) rallied with a two-run sixth inning and a five-run seventh to improve to 12-1 at home.
Down by a pair in the ninth inning, WVU attempted to rally, loading the bases with one out, but could only bring one run across on a sacrifice fly. The Mountaineers fell to 6-3 against ranked teams in 2017, all on the road.
West Virginia led 4-0 early behind a strong start by freshman right-hander Alek Manoah
and power at the plate thanks to home runs by sophomore third baseman Cole Austin
and senior first baseman Jackson Cramer
Making his second start of his career, Manoah pitched 6.0 innings and allowed two runs on just three hits with a career-high six strikeouts. After giving up a leadoff single in the first inning, Manoah did not allow another hit until the sixth.
Offensively, Austin hit a three-run home run in the first inning and Cramer added a solo homer in the third inning, his team-high seventh of the season. Cramer led the team with three hits and added an RBI and two runs scored, while Austin drove in four of WVU’s six runs and had two hits.
The Mountaineers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning, thanks to Austin’s fifth home run of the season that cleared the batter’s eye in straight-away center field. The home run, with no outs, came after two singles and an error.
After Manoah and the WVU defense stranded two Maryland runners in the first and second innings, the Mountaineers added to their lead on Cramer’s solo home run to right field with one out. After three innings, the Mountaineers held a 4-0 lead.
Both teams were retired in order in the fourth inning before Maryland again stranded a runner in the fifth. The Terrapins got on the board off of Manoah in the sixth on a two-run home run by Madison Nickens to make it 4-2.
West Virginia responded in the top of the seventh though, with a run on one hit and an error. Sophomore second baseman Kyle Gray
led off the inning with a single and reached third on a failed pickoff attempt. He scored to extend the WVU lead to 5-2 on a sacrifice fly by freshman center fielder Brandon White
However, Maryland answered right back in the bottom of the frame with a five-run seventh inning. Senior right-hander Jackson Sigman
began the inning on the mound in relief of Manoah, and gave up five runs on four hits. Sophomore righty Braden Zarbnisky
got the final two outs of the inning, but UM took a 7-5 lead into the eighth.
Zarbnisky held the Terrapins scoreless in the eighth, which allowed the Mountaineers to attempt a ninth-inning comeback, trailing by two runs, 7-5.
A walk and two singles loaded the bases for Austin, who hit a one-out sacrifice fly to right field to score Gray. With runners on the corners and two outs, a strikeout ended the game, and WVU's late rally.
West Virginia returns home for a three-game series against No. 2 TCU at Monongalia County Ballpark. The matchup between two of the top teams in the Big 12 Conference standings begins on Friday, April 14, at 6:30 p.m. ET. Saturday’s game is set for 4 p.m., while Sunday’s series finale will be at noon.
Tickets for the TCU series are still available, at 1-800-WVU GAME, WVUGAME.com
or at the Mountaineer Ticket Office in the WVU Coliseum or on gameday at Monongalia County Ballpark. There are multiple promotions set for all three games against TCU, which can be found on WVUsports.com/promotions
. Friday night’s game against TCU will be broadcast nationally on FCS Atlantic, the first televised game in Monongalia County Ballpark history. Sunday’s game will be broadcast locally on the Nexstar Media Group’s network of statewide affiliates.
WVU falls to 19-12 on the season and 6-3 against top-25 teams, all on the road … Starter Alek Manoah
pitched a career-long 6.0 innings, striking out a career-best six batters and allowing two runs on three hits with three strikeouts … Cole Austin
hit his fifth home run of the season and ninth of his career in the first inning, his second three-run homer of the year … Jackson Cramer
hit his team-leading seventh home run of the year in the third inning and 25th homer of his career.
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