Ross Vance scattered six hits over eight innings as West Virginia beat Charleston Southern 9-2 on Saturday for its fifth consecutive win.
Vance was dominant, mixing locations and speeds throughout in challenging a CSU line-up that has produced just eight home runs this season. Vance (3-2) had struggled in his recent starts, but baffled the Bucs with a steady diet of fastballs – not typically a staple for the junk baller. He struck out nine, including leadoff hitter Brandon Burris three times, and gave up just one extra base hit.
The southpaw was rarely in trouble, allowing a lone run in the eighth before stranding two of the eight left on by CSU. West Virginia (14-10) led 5-1 at that point after a four-run sixth inning blew the game open and chased opposing starter Evan Raynor as the Mountaineers won by the same score for a second straight series game.
Vance got all the support he needed in the sixth inning when West Virginia scored four times off Raynor. The power right-hander was cruising through five, but got in trouble immediately in the sixth when Brad Johnson reached on a throwing error by shortstop Cole Murphy. Shaun Wood then forced Johnson to second on a groundout before Raynor’s defense betrayed him again as third basemen Robbie Streett wildly threw past first base on a routine grounder by Ray Guerrini.
The ball rolled deep down the line near the bullpen, allowing Johnson to score from first while Guerrini advanced to third. Cam O’Brien was then hit by the next Raynor pitch, setting up Caleb Potter’s RBI single to center to score Guerrini for a 3-0 lead. Shaun Corso and Taylor Munden each followed with RBI singles, plating O’Brien and Potter for a 5-0 lead. That was the end for Raynor (2-2), who allowed the five runs, but just one earned, on eight hits with four strikeouts. He did issue a key wild pitch that led to the first run, but pitched far better than the scoreboard indicated.
The Mountaineers continued to threaten reliever Denis Buckley, loading the bases when Justin Fox stole second before Kyle Davis was hit by a pitch. That brought up Johnson for the second time in the inning as WVU batted around, but the cleanup hitter stranded three with his second strikeout of the game. It didn’t matter, as the Mountaineers piled on with four more in the bottom of the eighth for the final margin.
West Virginia went ahead 1-0 when Johnson and Wood reached on infield singles and advanced on a wild pitch to set-up O’Brien’s sac fly to center as both teams missed the majority of early opportunities. WVU moved runners to second and third with one out in the second inning on a single, walk and sac bunt, but couldn’t score when Potter and Corso both struck out. Charleston Southern loaded the bases in the fourth when Justin Fox misread a slow roller and let the fair ball pass by the third base bag. That followed a walk and single off Vance, who got a comebacker for a double play to end the threat.
Five players had multi-hit games for West Virginia, including 3-for-5 performances by Fox and Wood. Both had an RBI and scored a run. CSU was out-hit 13-8, and got just one hit from its first four hitters in the order. Vance struck out the four a combined six times. The Mountaineers left 13 on and didn’t have an error for a third consecutive contest.
WVU has now clinched its first series win since it swept East Tennessee State in early March. The Mountaineers have now split their first six series of the season while Charleston Southern (12-13) has lost three of four games and seven of its last nine. The Buccaneers have scored just four runs against WVU in 18 innings and now trail the all-time series 8-4.
The series concludes Sunday with a noon first pitch as West Virginia throws sophomore right-hander Chad Donato (3-3, 1.85 ERA). Senior right-hander Kyle McDorman (1-2, 2.18 ERA) gets the start for the Bucs as they try to salvage a game.
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