WVU Rips Zips, Tops Akron 14-9

Ray Guerrini hit a grand slam for his first career home run and West Virginia racked up 20 hits in beating Akron 14-9 on Tuesday here at Consol Energy Park in Washington, Pa.

Guerrini entered hitting .167 with just three RBI, but ripped a fastball down the middle to left to more than double his season production and give the Mountaineers an insurmountable 9-0 lead in the third. Starter BJ Myers was pulled an inning later, leaving with 10-0 advantage after allowing just two hits to stifle a struggling Akron offense. Myers (1-1) evened his record, displaying an excellent splitter to keep the Zips off balance and record six strikeouts against just two walks.

WVU had no such problems, backing Myers and a series of relievers with among their top offensive performances in tying the season record for hits set in an 18-2 win against East Tennessee State. Eleven different Mountaineers recorded hits and Shaun Wood and Brad Johnson exited the game by the top of the fifth having combined for a 5-for-5 performance, including three RBI and two runs scored for Wood. Over the last five games, the right fielder is six-of-14 with nine RBI. By then, head coach Randy Mazey began to substitute freely, replacing the majority of his starters or having them switch positions to give younger players an opportunity at their prime spots.

The game, a replacement for one scheduled against Waynesburg set to open WVU's new home field in Mon County ballpark, was played at the home of the Washington Wild Things Frontier League franchise, 50 miles north of Morgantown. The St. Patrick's Day match-up with Division II Waynesburg was originally scheduled because that was the first baseball opponent in West Virginia's school history. But when the Mountaineers' new ballpark wasn't yet ready to be christened against the historical foe, WVU decided instead to schedule a Division I team to aid its RPI - and it did just that in the convincing win.

The Mountaineers (9-8) knocked out Akron starter Zach Beaver (0-1) after three innings with a 9-0 lead, and managed to load the bases against reliever Evan Jenson in the fourth inning, but add just a single run. It was among the better jobs limiting the damage from a Zips’ defense that committed three errors over the first four innings. Keller entered in the fifth and maintained the shutout, overpowering Akron (8-8). Myers and Keller, both freshman right-handers, were dominant, limiting the Zips to just three hits over a combined six innings. Akron failed to score until the seventh inning.

West Virginia went ahead 4-0 in the first inning, striking immediately as Taylor Munden led off with a moonshot homer to left as the Mountaineers continually exploited Beaver’s throws to the middle of the plate with four other hits. After the solo shot, Johnson doubled and Jackson Cramer and Wood followed with singles to score a pair of runs for the 3-0 lead. Wood advanced to second on a ball in the dirt and scored on Guerrini’s single to end the early onslaught at 4-0.

The Mountaineers extended the lead to 9-0 in the third inning, most of the damage coming on Guerrini’s grand slam to left. That followed Wood’s RBI single that came after a walk, single and fielding error – Akron’s third of the game as its defense was as suspect as at any time this season. The Zips entered third in the MAC in fielding percentage, but had struggled in the infield all game, leading to multiple unearned Mountaineer runs.

Kyle Davis, who moved between second and third base during the game, tacked on a two-RBI homer to left in the sixth inning for a 12-0 lead before Akron finally broke through with four runs in the seventh inning, one on the first career error by Munden when playing third base. The homer was Davis' second of the season. Davis is now hitting .386, second on the team in typical starters behind Munden’s .370. Cam O’Brien, who didn’t start during the initial portions of the season – but is expected to be the full time catcher entering Big 12 play – is hitting .407 over 27 at bats.

Myers, who now has 19 strikeouts in 22.2 innings pitched this season, got in trouble in the top second with runners on second and third, but escaped with back-to-back strikeouts after a sacrifice bunt. It was the only hiccup in the brief outing, with Myers throwing 43 strikes in 69 pitches to lower his ERA to from 5.30 entering to 4.37.

It was easily Akron’s worst defeat of the season, and its third in a row after dropping the final two games of a weekend series at Davidson. West Virginia has won four of six, but lost its opening Big 12 series to Texas last weekend two games to one. The Mountaineers now lead Akron 21-12 in a series that began in 1982. WVU took three of four games from the Zips in 2012, and have now won four of five in the series. West Virginia plays a second consecutive Big 12 road series this weekend, opening at Baylor on Friday at 7:30 p.m. eastern. The Bears (6-12) have lost 10 in a row entering a midweek game with Sam Houston State.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories