WVU trailed 9-3 after four innings, but scored five runs in the 5th and two in the 6th for a 10-9 lead before again wilting down the stretch via its suspect bullpen. UNCW, which banged out a series-high 16 hits, scored two runs in both the 6th and 7th innings for a 13-10 advantage that held in taking the rubber game.
It was a disappointing end after West Virginia (12-8) overcame a poor start by Zach Bargeron. The lefty made his sixth appearance and second start of the season as head coach Randy Mazey perhaps rested normal weekend starter John Means for Tuesday's 3 p.m. home-opener against Pitt after the junior threw a complete-game three-hitter in a 5-1 win at No. 12 North Carolina on Wednesday.
Bargeron had taken a no-decision in a 5-4 victory over Cal State Northridge on March 13, allowing two runs on five hits with one strikeout in 4.1 innings pitched. He didn't get that far this time, pitching just 1.2 innings while surrendering six runs, all earned, on five hits as his ERA ballooned to 10.61 over a combined nine innings. That proved too much to overcome even behind a 14-hit attack led by four RBI from Sean Wood and three from Jacob Rice on a pair of doubles. Billy Fleming finished 4-of-5 with two runs scored and an RBI.
But with WVU's bullpen, even that offensive clout wasn't nearly enough. After Bargeron butchered the start, the Mountaineers again called upon Pascal Paul. The right-hander, who was saddled with the loss in Friday's series opener after Harrison Musgrave threw nine innings of one-run ball, immediately allowed a two-run double and an unearned run on a single to shortstop as Wilmington took a 7-3 lead. The senior, who has given up three runs in his last inning of work, lasted just one out after being pulled following a walk and single to start the 3rd inning.
Mazey continued the bullpen shuffle, as Corey Walter entered. The right-hander gave up a single followed by two consecutive groundouts as UNCW plated a pair of runs to extend the lead to 9-3. Those runs, however, were charged to Paul, and Walter actually pitched better than any other Mountaineer in keeping UNCW largely in check over his 4.2 innings. He allowed two earned runs on two hits but, in a twist of baseball fate, was ultimately saddled with the loss in falling to 0-3.
Still, it was Walters who kept West Virginia in the game as it began to rally. Thus far buried under an avalanche of poor pitching and lack of timely hitting, WVU suddenly came to life in the 5th inning, scoring five runs on just three hits to pull within 9-8.
Shortstop Taylor Munden, who went 3-for-4, drew a walk to start, and went first to third on a double by centerfielder Bobby Boyd. That set up Fleming with runners in scoring position, and the second baseman delivered with an RBI single. With runners on the corners, cleanup hitter Ryan McBroom – who scored three runs – hit into a fielder's choice that plated Boyd and cut the deficit to 9-5. Rice then reached on an error before Wood delivered the big blow with a three-run homer.
The Seahawks then helped the Mountaineers continued to threaten by issuing two straight walks and a hit by pitch to load the bases for Boyd, who flew out to left to end the inning. UNCW starter Nick Monroe, who was pulled after the first of the two walks, was charged with seven of WVU's eight runs on 10 hits over his 4.2 innings.
The Mountaineers, sensing a momentum shift, quickly retired Wilmington in the top half of the 6th to keep the pressure on the Seahawks as Ricky Holden, who entered in relief, continued with control problems. After the walk and hit by pitch in the 5th, the right-hander gave up a single to start the 6th before drilling McBroom on an 0-2 pitch. That was enough for UNCW head coach Mark Scalf, who replaced the senior with left-hander William Shepley. Rice promptly doubled to left center to score Fleming and McBroom and put the Mountaineers ahead 10-9.
Shepley (1-0) then got out of the inning on a foul out and double play after yet another hit by pitch. After Walter retired the first two Seahawks in the 7th, Mazey replaced him with Ross Vance, who gave up a single and Corey Dick's homerun to blow the lead. UNCW (11-11) then added a pair of runs in the 7th inning for the final total. West Virginia did bring the tying run to the plate in the 9th inning in Boyd, who struck out swinging against Kelly Secrest as the lefty picked up his first save of the season.