The Mountaineers continued their offensive outburst, pounding out 16 hits one game after scoring eight runs in a shutout victory. Huth went 3-for-3 and drove in three runs, finishing the series with nine hits and six RBI in raising his season total to 17. Fox led off the scoring, pounding a homer over the raised portion of the left field wall on starter Nick Morton’s third pitch of the game. The blast hit off the top wall of the adjacent ticket booth, protected by an extended wall height above the 375-foot sign. It was projected at 414 feet, rivaling the shot to center by Jackson Cramer in the park’s Friday opener.
Consecutive doubles by a red-hot Kyle Davis and Cramer then put the Mountaineers ahead 2-0, and brought a mound visit by Butler’s coaching staff after just nine pitches. But the dye was cast, Morton giving up runs in each of the first five innings as WVU built an 11-0 lead in securing its third series sweep of the season. The Mountaineers (21-12) have won 12 of their last 14 and have now taken five of their eight season series, this one in front of a school-record 6,968 for the three-game set.
“I feel a lot more confident,” said Huth, who missed all of the fall season with a broken hand and was hitting below .200 early in the season before reaching .300 in this game. “Coming off my hand injury and surgery, I wasn’t feeling right for the first half of the season. I told myself it would come around and to stay confident and the results would come.”
The same was true for Donato, who lacked the sharpness shown in his previous two outings, doubling his season total by issuing an uncharacteristic four walks. But the right-hander went six strong innings, allowing just one earned run while striking out 10 with a lethal curve and solid mix of speeds. It was a stark contrast to Morton, who allowed another run in the second inning before his defense betrayed him with a throwing error that put two on with two outs. The lefty then served up a curve that Huth put over the leftfield wall for a three-run homer that doubled the deficit to 6-0.
“(Morton) was a buddy of mine (at Fullerton College),” Huth said. “I knew we had a little action coming in to it because I hit him pretty good in intrasquad. I knew he was going to be throwing me offspeed so I was trying to sit on that all day.”
Butler still stuck with the left-hander, however, and the Mountaineers continued to stick it to him, adding on in the fourth inning with an unearned run when Ray Guerrini singled home Fox after the third baseman reached on a throwing error. That made four straight unearned runs for Morton, who continued into the fifth inning before loading the bases with no outs. Garrett Hope then singled in the eighth run, signaling the end for Morton.
The junior was responsible for all three runners on, and was ultimately tagged for all 11 runs, seven earned, after reliever Josh Goldberg gave up three more on a walk, fielder’s choice and single. Morton worked just four full innings and allowed five extra base hits with three doubles and the pair of home runs as his ERA rose to 7.48.
Three WVU relievers finished the game for Donato (5-3), whose ERA reached a scorching 1.61 ERA. He now has 40 strikeouts this season against just eight walks over 60.1 innings pitched. Goldberg and Kyle Allen threw two innings each for Butler (13-22), which has now lost seven of eight.
“I didn’t really have much fastball command, so I leaned on my curve and change-up,” Donato said. “When something is not working you have to go to the back-up stuff. There’s a big difference between my curveball and fastball. I have my fastball low 90s, high 80s, and the curveball coming in mid-70s, so it’s a big jump to keep them off balance. The sweep is beautiful.”
Four Mountaineers had multi-hit games, led by Huth – who scored three runs – and Fox, who went 2-for-5 with 2 RBI and two runs scored. Fox’s home run was his third of the season. Davis, Cramer and Hope also had two hits while eight different players scored. Mazey played 13 different players, including giving Tucker Cascadden the start at shortstop in place of team captain Taylor Munden, who started 32 consecutive games. Mazey noted that he did that to ensure that if Cascadden had to replace Munden at short that he had played on the field.
Butler finished with eight hits, led by two each from centerfielder Tyler Houston and third baseman Chris Maranto. West Virginia next plays Penn State at Mon County Ballpark on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Shane Ennis (1-1, 3.31 ERA) is expected to start. It is the lone midweek game before the Mountaineers host Oklahoma in their first Big 12 home series of the season.
“I love it here,” Donato said. “The ballpark helps a lot with the flow and energy. It pumps us up in the dugout a lot.”