Late Production Spurs WVU win

Mountaineer pitcher Nick Wernke hurled 4.1 innings of relief to pick up his first career win as West Virginia beat Charleston Southern 9-2 on Friday to take the first of a three-game series.

Wernke (1-0) allowed just one hit in his previous two innings of work this season, but had been hurt by control issues in allowing three runs. There was no such issue in this game, with the freshman mixing a well-located fastball with a solid offspeed offering to keep CSU off balance after the Buccaneers scored twice in the first four innings. Wernke rolled after getting starter Connor Dotson out of a second bases loaded jam in the fourth inning, and kept Charleston Southern in check while the Mountaineers rallied and then held on to a narrow lead for much of the game.

It didn’t appear easy early, West Virginia escaping a bases loaded jam in the top of the second before going ahead 1-0 in the bottom half when Caleb Potter’s deep liner to left hit off Chris Singleton’s glove, with both toppling over the fence. It was Potter’s second home run of the season, and certainly his shortest as it cleared the 375 feet mark by less than six inches. It was the 26th homer of the season for the Mountaineers (13-10), which hit 24 all of last year.

Dotson gave up the lead two innings later, and was pulled after 3.2 innings worked when CSU took a 2-1 lead on a double and hit by pitch followed by a sac fly and RBI single. Dotson had again loaded the bases on a walk and hit by pitch, his third of the game, before WVU head coach Randy Mazey turned to Wernke, who induced a routine groundout to strand three and keep the Mountaineers within a run. It was the second time in the first four innings that Charleston Southern (12-12) left three, and WVU was fortunate to be down just 2-1 going to the bottom half.

Dotson closed the book with six hits and two earned runs with four strikeouts and four free passes, three on hit by pitches on 93 pitches, 57 for strikes, one outing after Donato went eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits to pick up a win at Baylor.

West Virginia answered in the bottom of the fourth on Shaun Corso’s two-RBI single to right with the bases loaded for a 3-2 lead. That left runners on the corners with two outs for designated hitter Garrett Hope before Mazey called for a surprise double steal. Andrew Tomasvich recognized the play late, but had enough time to cut down Guerrini at the plate to end the threat.

That was the final throw of the game for junior, who was pulled for Chayce Hubbard in the fifth inning. Tomasvich (4-2) totaled the four innings with three runs, all earned, on four hits with two strikeouts and a base on balls. He threw 45 strikes in 79 pitches in dropping just his second decision of the season. Hubbard started hot, but then gave up a single to Johnson and a double to Guerrini in the sixth inning that appeared to score a run from first. Guerrini’s shot down the third base line, however, eventually rolled to the wall and went under the fence for a ground rule double, sending Johnson back to third and costing WVU a two-run edge. Potter then struck out to strand the pair and keep CSU within 3-2 going to the seventh.

The Mountaineers added an insurance run in the eighth inning when Guerrini singled to center to score Justin Fox, who advanced to second on a single by Kyle Davis. WVU then pushed the edge to 5-2 on a bases loaded walk to Shaun Corso before Shaun Wood cleared the bases with a three RBI double and an 8-2 edge. WVU added a final run, and the sixth in an eighth inning in which the Mountaineers batted around, when Wood scored on Taylor Munden’s double for the final margin.

It didn’t much matter with Wernke on the mound, as the Buccaneers went scoreless over the final five frames in losing for a third time in four games. Wernke more than doubled his previous innings pitched, and would now appear to be in line for additional work out of the bullpen as WVU continues toward Big 12 play. West Virginia was paced offensively by eight players with a hit, with Guerrini and Kyle Davis – who leads team with a .368 batting average – tallying two hits apiece. Guerrini drove in one and had one of just two extra base hits for the Mountaineers; Corso had three RBI, two on his lone single. Wood had three RBI on his bases-clearing double in the bottom of the eighth to seal the game.

Charleston Southern had eight hits to WVU’s 11, with three players having multi-hit games. Chase Shelton went 2-for-4 with a double and run scored. The bottom of the order had the lone two RBI for the Buccaneers in eight-nine hitters Sam Remick and Ryan Maksim.

The series continues on Saturday and Sunday as junior left-hander Ross Vance (2-2, 3.96 ERA) starts Saturday with sophomore right-hander Chad Donato (3-3, 1.85 ERA) closing the series on Sunday. Saturday’s game is set for 2 p.m. and Sunday’s finale will be at noon.

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