CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- West Virginia was already behind the eight-ball in terms of making a run at the NCAA tournament, what with its 90-and-falling RPI and a losing record in the Big 12, but Marshall may have put the final nail in those hopes with a 3-2 win over the Mountaineers on Tuesday at Appalachian Power Park. A clearly more-motivated Herd team put three runs on the board in the second inning and made those stand up as West Virginia managed just five hits on the evening. When Shaun Wood struck out to end the game, the Herd celebrated as if it had won an NCAA regional, again demonstrating the importance they place on games against WVU.
It's not as if West Virginia shouldn't have had its own motivation. With 13 games left to play, the Mountaineers needed wins in all four non-conference games, as well as series victories against its three remaining Big 12 conference sets in order to make a late run. Instead, WVU again came out flat, allowing all three runs after getting two outs in the bottom of the second. The damage was again partially self-inflicted as a throwing error from centerfield on the Herd's second run of the game allowed catcher Matt Reed to advance to third, from where he scored on starter Shane Ennis' wild pitch.
That tally proved to be the decisive run, as the Mountaineers answered with a pair of runs in the sixth on Shaun Corso's leadoff homer run to left and Kyle Davis' RBI single, which plated Taylor Munden. WVU could get not closer, though, despite getting baserunners in each of the last two innings.
West Virginia was held largely in check by the pitching of Josh King, who struck out six while allowing just four hits and two earned runs over 5.2 innings."He dominated us with his fastball," head coach Randy Mazey said afterward. "I gathered my pitchers together and told them to watch how he pitched."
Ennis, who was lifted after just two innings and 27 pitches, allowed five hits and three runs, all earned. On the bright side, reliever Adam Keller, who had command of all three of his pitches, had his best outing of the season in relief, giving up just one hit and one walk in six innings while striking out three. Forty-four of his 70 pitches went for strikes, but as he held Marshall scoreless over the final seven innings, he didn't get sufficient support from his teammates. WVU did get leadoff runners aboard in both the eighth and ninth innings, but a baserunning error by Corso, who was nabbed of first trying to return to the bag after reaching on an error, killed one rally, while a Marshall double play erased pinch runner Tucker Cascadden after Jackson Cramer ripped a leadoff single in the ninth.
West Virginia did have several hard-hit balls that went right at Marshall fielders, but that wasn't the difference in the game. WVU got just two hits from the top seven hitters in the order, and eight Mountaineers went down on strikes in the contest. Corso was the only Mountaineer with more than one hit, as he added a single to his solo home run.
West Virginia continues its road trip with a visit to Radford on Wednesday, where the competition will be far tougher than Marshall, which stands 16-27 and with an RPI of 200. The Highlanders are 18th in the RPI and hold a 28-14 record as the leaders of the Big South conference. The game is set for 2:00 p.m. Eastern.