WVU Trounces East Tennessee 18-2

Ross Vance threw a shutout for five innings as West Virginia pounded out 20 hits in an 18-2 win at East Tennessee State on Saturday to put itself in position for the series sweep.

The Mountaineers scored in seven different innings, including the first six, and knocked out ETSU starter Lee Haeberle after the right-hander allowed nine runs, eight earned, in just 4.1 innings. By then, WVU had already racked up homers from Justin Fox and Taylor Munden, with Fox’s three-run blast in the second inning giving the Mountaineers a 4-0 lead. That was more cushion than Vance (2-1) would need, as the left-hander baffled the Buccaneers with a mix of offspeed offerings and solid location of the fastball before Randy Mazey called off the dogs with WVU leading 17-0 after five innings. Vance pounded the zone with 44 strikes in 68 total pitches, allowing just one single with a walk and seven strikeouts – including five in a row at one point.

West Virginia (6-6) got to Haeberle (2-2) early, scoring one in the first inning on a throwing error before Fox’s three run homer in the second for the 4-0 lead. Fox’s blast, his second of the season, scored Taylor Munden and Garrett Hope, who got the start as the designated hitter and would add a grand slam later for a 16-0 lead, part of a six-run sixth inning that ended any suspense. That signaled the end for Vance, as right-hander Shay Phillips entered and immediately set East Tennessee State down in order before allowing the two earned runs in the seventh inning.

Jackson Sigman pitched the eighth and Romney, W.Va. native Shane Ennis threw the ninth as the four pitchers combined to hold ETSU to just five hits. The offense was even more dominant, led by Munden’s two homers, Hope’s grand slam and a team-best five RBI from Cam O’Brien in a 3-for-5 performance with two runs scored as well. Fox finished with three RBI, and O’Brien went over .500 in average on the season after being held out the initial series.

The fifth and sixth innings combined for 10 runs, with nine hits and a pair of ETSU errors. West Virginia capitalized on almost every chance, leaving just one base runner each inning on the way to hitting 13-for-28 with runners on and 7-for-13 with them in scoring position, a far better percentage than what WVU has had for most of the season. They were also nearly .500 with runners on and two out at 7-for-15.

East Tennessee State (7-5), now on a three-game skid, was paced by Kevin Phillips and Aaron Mahr, the lone players to have multi-hit games. The Bucs ran through five relievers, none of whom recorded any more than three outs against the Mountaineers. Andy Higley, who immediately followed Haeberle, was torched for five runs on five eights against just eight batters faced. Fellow reliever Dalton Long then entered, faced six batters, and gave up three runs, two on homers, as the Mountaineers won consecutive games for the first time this season.

The victory was the biggest in the Mazey era, and comes just six games after Georgia Southern beat WVU 15-2 for the worst loss under the third-year head coach. The win sets the Mountaineers up to capture their second series victory of the season, and the first since the opening three games at Clemson. It also provides some momentum as West Virginia prepares for its initial Big 12 series at Texas on March 13-15. In going for the sweep, the Mountaineers will start sophomore right-hander Chad Donato (1-2, 1.50) on Sunday for the 1:05 p.m. first pitch. ETSU counters with junior right-hander Griffin Krieg (1-1, 5.73).

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