Guerrini, Hardy Spark WVU Win over Pitt

West Virginia catcher Ray Guerrini drove in all four Mountaineer runs and cut down a potential Pitt rally on defense as WVU downed the Panthers 4-1 in non-conference baseball action at Cost Field in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

Guerrini produced both large and small for WVU (16-10), smacking a three-run homer and driving in a fourth with a sacrifice bunt to give four Mountaineer pitchers all the support they needed. His performance overshadowed, but certainly didn’t eclipse, that of Jeff Hardy, who came on in the fourth inning to pitch five frames of excellent baseball. Hardy allowed three hits, two walks and one earned run, but struck out six and came up with big pitches in key situations to keep the Panthers caged. His stint followed two innings from Shane Ennis and another from Jordan Sergent, who combined to hold Pitt (11-16) scoreless over the first third of the contest.

After going hitless the first three innings, the Mountaineer offense made a showing in the top of the fourth. Singles by Justin Fox and Kyle Davis put two aboard, but when two strikeouts followed the prospects for the rally looked dim. Guerrini, however, produced again in the clutch, as he has several times this year, by smashing a home run over the left field wall to give West Virginia a 3-0 advantage. Hitting just .203 coming in, the redshirt sophomore has made the most of his plate appearances, producing 15 RBI on just 13 hits. More than half of them have been of the extra base variety, as he counts four doubles and three round trippers this season.

One inning later, Pitt rallied for a run due largely to Mountaineer miscues. WVU third baseman Taylor Munden lost his glove while fielding a ball that let Ron Sherman aboard, and a wild pitch advanced him to second. Charles LeBlanc’s groundout scored him to cut the lead to 3-1, but a much bigger inning was averted after Hardy hit a pair of batters to load the bases. It was Guerrini again, this time on defense, as his snap throw to third caught Wright wandering off the bag for the third out of the inning.

"Look at the importance of that play," WVU head coach Randy Mazey noted. "Bases loaded, and they have the four hole up. All of our catches are taught that, but he's the best at it. He works at it and takes pride in it."

West Virginia manufactured a run in the top of the sixth to push the lead back to 4-1. Kyle Davis and Caleb Potter singled to lead off the inning, and Shaun Wood sacrificed them up a base. Guerrini, again up in a key situation, laid down a perfect suicide squeeze that brought Davis home, but Johnson was cut down at the plate trying to score on the throw to first. Mazey complained to third base umpire Ron Whiting Sr. that Johnson was interfered with rounding third, but didn’t get the call.

"My three favorite plays are the three-run homer, the squeeze and the pickoff," Mazey said in detailing Guerrini's big plays.

The Panthers put two runners aboard in both the sixth and eight innings, but Hardy was equal to the task, getting strikeouts to end both frames and preserve WVU’s lead. All three of the eighth inning outs came via Hardy strikeouts, a punctuation mark that sewed up his first victory of the season. Blake Smith came on in the ninth, and like Hardy, fanned the final batter he faced to nail down the West Virginia win and record his second save of the season.

"Jeff Hardy has been up and down this year, kind of feeling for his pitches," Mazey observed. "We told him the next time, out, to just attack."

Hardy did that, and while his control wasn't the sharpest, he continually challenged Pitt hitters and get the outs when they mattered the most.

Each team mustered seven hits. Kyle Davis had a pair of singles for the Mountaineers and scored two runs, while Guerrini had all four RBI in his 1-3 performance at the plate.

The Mountaineers now head to Manhattan, Kan., for a Thursday-Friday-Saturday Big 12 series against the Wildcats. The weekday games are set for 7:30 p.m. Eastern starts, while the Saturday finale is slated for noon.

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