Coming into the year, head coach Randy Mazey was optimistic about his team's chances to field a quality trio of weekend starters, but even he might not have expected the performances that WVU's threesome of Harrison Musgrave, Sean Carley and John Means have turned in this year. Against the Dukes, it was Means' turn, and he again upheld the standard set by the Mountaineers through the early part of the season. He scattered six hits and two walks over seven innings while working his way out of one serious jam, but made key good pitches in the clutch to keep JMU in check.
On the back end, West Virginia reliever Zach Bargeron was perfect in the set-up role, retiring three consecutive Dukes in the eighth, while Corey Walter erased a leadoff walk in the ninth with a double play to nail down the win.
The victory followed the pattern set by West Virginia in most of its games this year. WVU scored in both the third and the fourth innings to grab an early 3-0 lead, then turned things over to their starter to protect. Two insurance runs in the seventh allowed Means to take a seat as WVU won its third consecutive game.
WVU's first run was set up by Billy Fleming, who singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Ryan McBroom's single to right. The next two runs came with two out. Cameron O'Brien singled and stole second, moved to third on Max Nogay's fly ball to center, then came home on Michael Constantini's single. Constantini moved into scoring position with his own steal, then came home easily on Taylor Munden'ts double to center.
James Madison had the chance to put up a crooked number in the top of the sixth, as it strung together three singles to score one and put runners of first and second. Means was then called for a balk, which moved both into scoring position, but he then induced a fly out to end the inning.
WVU again smacked the ball around in the bottom of the seventh, scoring two more runs to give its pitching staff additional breathing room. Munden again was involved, singling and then coming around to score on Bobby Boyd's double. Boyd committed one of the cardinal sins of the game by getting thrown out at third for the first out of the inning, but Fleming continued the rally with with a hit, and later scored on Jacob Rice's RBI single.
West Virginia hit up and down the lineup, with all eight position starters recording at least one hit. Munden, Boyd, Fleming, Rice and O'Brien each had two.
WVU will now battle its way home to snow and ice-covered Morgantown for five days before beginning a lengthy West Coast trip over spring break the following week. The Mountaineers will play seven games in eight days in California, opening with UC Riverside on Saturday, Mar. 8.
West Virginia continued its aggressive play on the basepaths, stealing four bags against the Dukes. WVU now has 16 steals on the season.
One of the biggest factors of WVU's quality pitching has been control. The Mountaineers walked just two batters against JMU, and have been very stingy in giving out free passes this year.