Freshman pitcher BJ Myers threw five solid innings and reliever Blake Smith followed with four frames of shutout relief as the Mountaineers (1-0) downed #24 Clemson 2-0 in the season opener for both teams on Friday in Clemson, S.C. Myers, who is one of four players on the roster from Flower Mound, Tex., pitched six innings of gritty ball. He allowed four hits and four walks through five innings, but didn't allow a run while striking out five. Although the Tigers were able to put baserunners aboard in four of the five innings, the freshman pitched like a veteran, working a breaking ball and offspeed pitches to keep the Tigers from the hit needed to push runners across the plate.
WVU reliever Blake Smith came on in the sixth, and followed Myers' breaking ball array with some power pitching, showcasing a fastball that again kept the Tigers off balance. Smith struck out five against two walks and two hits, and, like Myers, showed the ability to make key pitches at critical moments to get out of jams. The Tigers left 11 on base and put runners aboard in all but two innings, but had just one extra base hit and couldn't string enough together to dent the plate. Seven of those runners were abandoned in scoring position.
West Virginia's pitching was matched by Clemson (0-1) starter Matt Crowonver, who threw six innings of shutout ball of his own. Crownover allowed just three hits and walked none while striking out eight, but was lifted after hitting the 75 pitch mark. Once out, however the Mountaineers were able to manufacture a pair of runs to get the Mountaineers off to a good start in the 2015 season.
In the top of the seventh, center fielder KC Huth reached on a fielders choice, then advanced to third when third baseman Justin Fox smacked his third hit of the game. Fox stole second, putting two runners in scoring position, and one pitch later Huth scored when Clemson reliever Alex Bostic uncorked a wild pitch. When catcher Chris Okey couldn't locate the ball, Fox tried to score from second, but was thrown out at the plate to limit the damage to one run.
One inning later, the Mountaineers manufactured another run when catcher Ray Guerrini walked, moved to second, then came around to score on a pair of fly ball outs to right field. That insurance run, produced by Taylor Munden's sacrifice fly, moved West Virginia's lead to 2-0, and proved to be important when Clemson again threatened in the bottom of the ninth.
With one out in its last at-bat, Reed Rohlman ripped a double to right center off Smith. Tyler Slaton followed with a walk, but the extra run allowed the Mountaineers to play at normal depth on defense and concede the run at second if necessary. That paid off when Pinder grounded right back to Smith (1-0), who started a 1-6-3 double play to nail down the win for the Mountaineers.
WVU had just five hits (three by Fox) and struck out 11 times against Clemson pitching. Defense was excellent, however, as the Mountaineers did not commit an error and made a couple of excellent plays in the field, most notably on a Fox leaping grab of a liner down the third base line that would have gone for extra bases.
The second game of the three-game series is set for a 2:30 p.m. start, with lefty Ross Vance set to take the mound for the Mountaineers.