Winning Formula

West Virginia's winning baseball formula produced the Mountaineers' sixth consecutive win on Sunday night against UC Riverside.

Just about every game story so far this year has focused on West Virginia's starting pitching, and deservedly so, but it has also been early offensive production that has helped the Mountaineers to a winning streak that has now reached a half-dozen. Combined with another outstanding starting pitching performance, WVU scored a run in the first and added four in the fourth, then held on for a 7-4 win over UC Riverside on Sunday evening.

The Mountaineers (8-4) broke out on top in their first at-bat when Ryan McBroom singled up the middle to score Bobby Boyd, who had singled and moved to second when Billy Fleming was hit by a pitch. That was just a precursor to the big fourth inning, when a two-run homer by Shaun Wood, an RBI double from Taylor Munden and a Boyd RBI single gave WVU a comfortable 5-0 lead.

Meanwhile, West Virginia starter John Means was metaphorically sawing off Highlander bats. He allowed just one hit and one walk through six innings while striking out six, and did so on a quite efficient 74 pitches. His turn completed another stellar weekend for WVU starters, who dominated in all three games.

Shaun Wood
WVU then went to the bullpen, where things haven't been quite so successful. Zack Bargeron alllowed a two-run homer in his one inning of work, and Ryan Tezak gave up two more on combination of mistakes. Tezak walked two batters around two outs, and then gave way to Joby Lapkowicz, who uncorked a wild pitch and walked a batter. Catcher Cameron O'Brien couldn't hang on to the last pitch of the walk, yielding a passed ball that scored a run. WVU completed the mistake-fest with an infield throwing error that let in another run, giving UCR (8-4) a bit of hope at 6-4.

West Virginia got one of the runs back in the top of the ninth when Fleming singled and moved to second on Jacob Rice's hit. The duo then went for a double steal, with Fleming scoring when the throw from UCR catcher Matt Ellis went awry. Corey Walter came on in the ninth and avoided any further drama with a 1-2-3 inning to seal the win.

Boyd was the hitting star for WVU, rapping three safeties and driving in a run. Rice was 2-4 with an RBI, and Wood's first career homer gave him two RBI on the evening.

West Virginia remains in California this week while the school is on spring break. WVU faces UNLV on Tuesday and Cal State Northridge for a four game set on Thursday through Saturday. At least two of those games will give Mountaineer fans a chance to see candidates for the midweek starter position, whihc will be critical to develop as the season settles in to its normal rhythm of a weekend Big 12 series and a midweek game in April and May.

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