Troy Taormina

Jimmy Galusky, Darius Hill Strike Big Blows In Ninth As West Virginia Tops UNLV 9-6

Jimmy Galusky hit an RBI single and Darius Hill followed with a two-run homer in the ninth inning to lift West Virginia over UNLV 9-6 after the Mountaineers blew a five-run lead on Friday.

Galusky, hitting out of the nine hole, roped a 1-1 fastball over the second baseman to score KC Huth from third before Hill's first career homer rescued the series opener after UNLV rallied from a 6-1 deficit just two innings in.

The Rebels scored three runs in the fifth and two more in the eighth to tie, and were in position to take the lead before reliever Connor Dotson escaped a bases-loaded jam with a key ground out. That kept the game tied at 6-6 going to the ninth, and Huth led off with a five-pitch walk before advancing to second on a failed pick-off attempt and third on a wild pitch.

Kyle Gray then struck out, bringing Galusky to the plate with one out. The freshman sat on a fastball, punching it into right center for the deciding run.

Hill then worked the count full before pulling the ninth pitch of the at-bat over the right field wall for a two-run home run for the final margin. The two insurance runs were massive against a UNLV line-up that seemed to get stronger as the game wore on before Dotson (1-0) cooled the Rebels, getting four outs over the last five batters of the game to pick-up the win.

Chad Donato got the start for West Virginia (3-1), going 7.2 innings while allowing six runs, five earned. The right-hander held UNLV to a single run until the fifth inning, when two singles sandwiched around a pair of doubles brought the Rebs within 6-4. Donato worked a clean sixth and seventh, and had two outs in the eighth before putting the tying run on by hitting five-hitter Cooper Esmay.

Brandon Boone came on in relief, and promptly allowed a two-RBI double, hit-by-pitch and four-pitch walk. That chased the junior, and Dotson induced Nick Rodriguez's grounder up the middle for a force at second to leave the bases loaded and set-up  the ninth inning rally. It was the first career win for Dotson, as the sophomore went 0-4 last year with a respectable 3.88 ERA. Donato finished with 10 strikeouts while allowing 10 hits.

Galusky and Hill tagged UNLV reliver Blaze Bohall (1-1) with the loss, the lefty giving up the three runs, all earned, in his single inning of work. Starter D.J. Myers was ripped for six runs over the first two innings, but would settle into a groove to record nine consecutive outs, and retire 12 of the final 13 Mountaineers he faced before giving way after six innings.

Hill, a freshman, went 3-for-5 with four RBI - including a single, triple and home run - while scoring three in his best performance of the young season. Lead-off hitter Kyle Davis started the game with a solo home run to left, and Cole Austin ripped a two-run shot to left center later in the inning as WVU took a 3-0 lead.

It was Austin's first career home run at the college level, and it put Myers in an early hole. The right-hander settled and struck out the side, and UNLV (1-3) answered with a run in the bottom half for a 3-1 game going to the second frame.

The onslaught continued in the top half when Hill's two-out triple to center bounced off the wall, scoring Davis and Kyle Gray to give WVU a 5-1 lead. Hill then scored on an error by UNLV second baseman Justin Jones for a 6-1 game that began to look like a blowout. Myers finally got out of the inning, but had thrown 44 pitches over the first six outs, and largely kept that pace despite a scoreless third.

The sophomore then began to settle, getting the Mountaineers in order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Myers had thrown 60 pitches by the end of the third, but managed to retire 12 of the next 13 hitters, including 10 in a row on just 39 pitches. The UNLV offense, meanwhile, finally kicked in against Donato in the bottom of the fifth. After getting two quick outs, Donato gave up a single and two doubles to score a pair of runs. Another single to center trimmed the lead to 6-4 before Donato induced a ground out from designated hitter Corey Pool, hitting in the clean-up slot.

It was a huge out, and helped keep Donato in the game into the eighth inning, when UNLV made its move to eventually tie the score at 6-6 off Boone via the two-out double to left. Leftfielder Payton Squier had four hits and third baseman Kyle Isbel tallied three as the heart of the order did some damage against West Virginia's pitching.

The series continues Saturday at 5 p.m. eastern. UNLV will send lanky right-hander Dean Kremer to the mound. Kremer threw 5.2 scoreless innings of relief in the Rebels' 4-3 opening day road win at Texas, allowing just one hit over his 19 batters faced. UNLV, picked fifth in the Mountain West preseason coaches poll, won the game on a solo home run in the 12th inning, but would go on to drop the final two series games 11-2 and 7-0. 

West Virginia counters with left-hander Ross Vance (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who anchored the Mountaineers' 5-0 win over Charleston Southern last Saturday by throwing five shutout innings.

West Virginia is now 2-1 all-time vs. UNLV, with all three games taking place in Las Vegas. The Mountaineers are 1-1 under coach Randy Mazey after this game and a 4-3 defeat in 2014. The first meeting between WVU and UNLV came in 2000, when the Mountaineers posted a 15-6 victory. Like 2016, the 2000 West Virginia team also opened the year in Charleston, S.C. before a trip to Las Vegas.

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