The Mountaineers, frustrated by a series of close losses – including the last two by single runs, one in 13 innings – gained a measure of redemption against the ETSU, rallying from three runs down and surviving a couple late charges by the Buccaneers to win game one for the first time since the season-opening set at Clemson. West Virginia got a solid start by B.J. Myers, then backed that with solid offense and a fantastic appearance by Smith, who allowed just one earned run over the final 2.1 innings to pick up his second win against zero losses this season.
It wasn’t easy, and frankly hasn’t been often this season. WVU again had multiple passed balls in a game, this time racking up three, including one on catcher Cam O’Brien in the 10th inning that advanced runners from first and second to second and third to put Smith in a major jam. After head coach Randy Mazey issued an intentional walk to load the bases, providing a force play at every base, Smith induced a pop-up and a fielder’s choice groundout to third. He likely also induced massive sighs from the Mountaineer dugout, as West Virginia (5-6) avoided a second extra inning loss in its last four games and snapped a streak of four losses in five games.
WVU seemed to have the game won in the ninth inning after Brad Johnson’s RBI single to left to score Taylor Munden after the shortstop singled and reached second on a throwing error. But, like in a 2-1 defeat to No. 25 Illinois in the last game, West Virginia gave up a key run in the ninth inning. This time it provided for a tie, as Smith gave up a double to Hagen Owenby, followed by a sac bunt and Robby McCabe’s RBI single to center to tie at 6-6. That set-up Davis’ heroics in the ninth, as the freshman designated hitter drilled the first pitch from Dillon Cate over the leftfield wall for the freshman’s first career collegiate home run.
That saddled Cate (0-1) with the loss. Davis finished 3-of-4 with a double, RBI and two runs scored in addition to the deciding blow. Five other Mountaineers had multi-hit games, a smashing success for a line-up that had struggled for the better portion early in the season.
West Virginia pounded out a season-best 16 hits, leaving 12 runners on base. East Tennessee State (7-4) rallied a dozen hits and stranded a whopping 16, including three in the 10th inning. It was just the second loss in seven home games for the Bucs, who were led by three hits and two RBI each for Chris Cook and Kevin Phillips, the two and four hitters, respectively. East Tennessee State hit just .190 with runners on and .188 with them in scoring position. WVU left 10 runners in what early on looked to be another defensive game.
ETSU starter Jimmy Nesselt worked five innings, allowing three runs, all earned, on eight hits with five strikeouts and a walk in lowering his ERA to 2.52 in the no decision. The Bucs were immediately in trouble once they went to the bullpen, as Davis and O’Brien roughed up reliever Ryan Simpler for a single and double, respectively. Both scored on RBI putouts to tie the game at 5-5 in the sixth inning before East Tennessee State went quietly in the bottom half.
Both teams went scoreless in the seventh inning before getting runners into scoring position in the eighth, again without capitalizing. It was the opposite in the ninth inning, when both teams plated a run to force the extras, with Smith narrowly escaping a loss right then via a groundout after the Bucs put runners at second and third with two outs.
West Virginia took a 2-0 lead early on Jackson Cramer’s homer to left center in the top of the first inning after Johnson’s single. ETSU answered with three runs in the top of the third on a triple, double and home run, the latter buy Phillips for his fourth of the year. The Buccaneers then extended the lead to 5-2 the next inning on a defensive lapse by West Virginia. In a 2-1 defeat to Illinois last game, the Mountaineers allowed two unearned runs, one in the ninth inning to lose without a ball being hit out of the infield.
In this game, East Tennessee State pushed a pair of runs across in the fourth inning – all with two outs – on a single, passed ball, walk, steal, second passed ball and a single. That amounted to just two routine singles after two outs, compacted by two errors, one of the two-base variety, a walk and a stolen base. The miscues made one of the runs unearned, but ETSU should have easily been shut out that inning, especially after the initial two outs. WVU pulled within 5-3 the next inning on a double by KC Huth, followed by Justin Fox’s single, then escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the bottom of the fifth to stay within two runs.
Mountaineer starter B.J. Myers went 3.2 innings, allowing five runs, four earned, with four strikeouts and four walks in raising his ERA to 5.53.
The game was the 11th of 17 on the road to begin the season for West Virginia. The Mountaineers will again use the rotation of following Myers with junior left-hander Ross Vance (1-1, 2.70) on Saturday and sophomore right-hander Chad Donato (1-2, 1.50) on Sunday. Start times are 2:05 p.m. and 1:05 p.m. ETSU counters with junior right-handers Lee Haeberle (2-1, 3.00) and Griffin Krieg (1-1, 5.73).