West Virginia Drops 4-3 Decision To Charleston Southern in 2016 Season Opener

West Virginia got good weather for its baseball season opener in Charleston, S.C. on Friday, but the Mountaineers came up short in their bid to get the season off to a good start as they dropped a 4-3 decision to Charleston Southern.

Missed opportunities were the order of the day for the Mountaineers, who left eight runners on base and were just 1-9 with runners in scoring position. WVU managed just six hits on the day and committed three errors, one of which was crucial in the Buccaneers first scoring inning.

Both teams went in order in the first inning before Jackson Cramer led off the top of the second with a solo shot to right that easily cleared the 365-foot mark and put the Mountaineers ahead 1-0. Starter Chad Donato again cruised in the bottom half, continually getting ahead in the count and mixing pitches effectively. He would retire the first nine batters faced, easily moving through the Bucs' line-up the first time through with five strikeouts.

West Virginia  had a chance to extend the lead in the third, when Kyle Davis drew a walk and advanced to second on the two-out throwing error by Charleston Southern shortstop Cole Murphy. Darius Hill then walked before Cole Austin was hit by a pitch. That brought Cramer, the clean-up hitter, to the plate with two outs. The junior worked the count full before CSU right-hander Evan Raynor (1-0) induced a groundout to second to strand three an end the threat. That set a pattern for the rest of the Mountaineers' day.

Charleston Southern would finally snap the hitless streak the next inning, getting a single and an error at third base by Davis to put runners at first and second with one out. Donato got a huge flyout from clean-up hitter Bryan Dye for the second out, putting runners on the corners for Chris Singleton. The right-fielder worked a 2-2 count before doubling to the wall in left, scoring a pair of unearned runs with two outs for a 2-1 CSU lead. Cole Murphy grounded to short to strand Singleton.

West Virginia continued to put runners on, but could not get the final hit it needed to get them home. The Mountaineers got a runner to second in both the fourth and fifth, but stranded them both as they failed to ge the tying run home.  Jimmy Galusky got aboard in the seventh via error, but was erased on a double play as the Buccaneers continued to hold the Mountaineers at bay. One frame later, WVU put two runners aboard via hit by pitch, but yet another CSU double play ended the threat.

Charleston Southern then got a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth that turned out to be the difference in the contest. The first came  on a leadoff solo home run by Nate Blanchard, with the second courtesy a double by Sly Edwards and an RBI single by Singleton. That uprising soured a promising outing for Conner Dotson , who had come in relief for Donato two innings prior.  Both runs were earned against Dotson, who struck out one and walked one while giving up two extra base hits against 12 batters.Shane Ennis got the final out of the eighth via a strikeout.

The Mountaineers, as they did a number of times a year ago, rallied in the final inning, only to see it fall just short. Ray Guerrini tripled and scored on an error, which put KC Huth on second when a late throw to the plate in a vain attempt to get the WVU catcher was attempted. Pinch hitter Kyle Casserly delivered a single that moved Huth to third, but then CSU pitcher Chayce Hubbard steadied. He got the second out of the inning on a fielders' choice that forced Casserly at second, and although that scored Huth to bring WVU wtihin one, it also kept the tying run out of scoring position. Hubbard made it all moot by striking out Hill to end the game.

Donato (0-1) had an excellent outing in absorbing the loss. He pitched 5 .1 innings and faced 20 batters, but yielded just three hits, with the one extra base hit scoring two runs off him (both unearned). The junior did not walk a batter and struck out five.

Mazey shuffled the expected line-up, sliding right-fielder Shaun Wood into the designated hitter spot. That put Hill,a freshman, into right, with fellow true freshman Kyle Gray in left. The middle infield positions, up for grabs during preseason, went to Galusky at short and Austin at second, putting four freshman - Galusky redshirted last season - in the field for the Mountaineers. The four produced just one hit, an Austin single.

The series continues this weekend. WVU is slated to start left-hander Ross Vance (7-5, 3.26 ERA in 2015) on Saturday; first pitch is 11 a.m. B.J. Myers (2-5, 3.82) gets the nod to conclude the three-game series on Sunday at 10 a.m. The early start times are due to the games being moved from Charleston Southern's home field to Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, home of the Charleston Riverdogs, a Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees.

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