WVU Evens Series With Offensive Onslaught

West Virginia’s bats boomed against seven Georgia Southern pitchers as the Mountaineers evened the three-game series with a 12-4 win over the Eagles on Saturday.

WVU scored runs in six consecutive innings to erase an early 1-0 Georgia Southern lead and got battling performances from starter Ross Vance and reliever Conner Dotson to move to 3-2 on the season. Taylor Munden, Justin Fox and Kyle Davis all had three hits in the onslaught.

After the Eagles opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first, Mountaineer third baseman Justin Fox evened the score with a home run to left. The blast was a continuation of the West Virginia native’s torrid start to the season, but it was by no means his only contribution on the day. One inning later, WVU took a lead it would not relinquish when Ray Guerrini manufactured a run by getting aboard on a hit by pitch, moving to third on a throwing error from catcher Andrew Kelley, then scampering home on a wild pitch. In the fourth, that duo again combined to account for more West Virginia runs. Fox was hit by a pitch and moved to second on one of Kyle Davis’ three hits. Guerrini then doubled down the left field line to bring both home and push West Virginia’s advantage to 4-1.

Meanwhile, Mountaineer starter Ross Vance (1-1) was following his usual pattern of keeping hitters off balance. While not overpowering, Vance continually stranded runners with his usual assortment of off-speed and breaking balls. The Eagles did get to Vance for two runs in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to 4-3, but Vance choked off more damage with a strikeout, one of his nine on the day, to end the threat.

If the Eagles had an idea of rallying, WVU (3-2) quickly nipped them. Brad Johnson led off the next inning with a solo home run, and Justin Fox again showed up with a double and a run scored on Kyle Davis’ single. Another run followed in the sixth on Jackson Cramer’s sacrifice fly, which scored Caleb Potter to put the Mountaineers ahead 7-3.

At that point, Georgia Southern (4-2) had already gone through six pitchers, and appeared resigned to playing out the string. Leaving reliever Alex Paesano in the game, the Eagles saw WVU break the game wide open on Taylor Munden’s first-pitch three run homer to left. That was West Virginia’s third roundtripper of the game, and put the contest into cruise control. The Eagles added a run on Chase Griffin’s homer in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to 10-4, but West Virginia added two more in its final at-bat on Jackson Cramer’s RBI single and Fox’s run-scoring double.

Into the seventh-inning, the rubber-armed Vance continued to hold Georgia Southern in check. Throwing a mid-season form 109 pitches, Vance completed 6.1 innings. He allowed 11 baserunners, but the combination of nine strikeouts and no Mountaineer errors behind him helped limit the Eagle attack. The movement on his pitches had Eagle batters beating the ball into the ground, as he recorded eight groundouts against just two of the fly ball variety. Conner Dotson had something of an interesting relief appearance. He faced 14 batters and allowed six to reach base (three walks, three hits), but recorded seven strikeouts among his eight recorded outs. Going deep into counts, he threw 65 pitches, but gave up just the solo home run – his first earned run of the season.

In what appears to be a building norm for this WVU team, opponents continue to put men on base, but struggle to bring them home. West Virginia did not have a 1-2-3 inning in the game, and 13 Eagle runners were left stranded by Vance and Dotson. The Mountaineers have an excellent team ERA of 2.93 through five games, and have benefited from good fielding behind them. The WVU defense has just two errors on the season.

Four Mountaineers combined for most of the batting damage. In the leadoff slot, Munden was 3-4 and also got aboard two other times with walks. His double and three-run homer gave him seven total bases on the afternoon. Fox was 3-5 with three runs scored while equaling Munden’s total base output, and Kyle Davis had his best day as a Mountaineer with a 3-4 performance that included a double, an RBI and two runs scored. Brad Johnson was 2-3 with a solo home run, and also was the recipient of three walks on the afternoon. Fifteen non-pitchers saw action for WVU.

The deciding game of the weekend set is scheduled for Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Chad Donato (1-0) is scheduled to take the hill for WVU.

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