A crazy eighth inning rally, capped off by a squeeze call by head coach Randy Mazey that resulted in two runs scoring, pushed West Virginia past the Old Dominion Monarchs 4-3 in the Mountaineers’ home opener at Monongalia County Ballpark.
Freshman Cole Austin led the bottom of the eighth inning off with a chopper down the third base line which ate up third baseman Nick Lustrino on an in-between hop. After Austin reached on the error, first baseman Jackson Cramer doubled into the left field corner to set the Mountaineers up with men on second and third with no outs.
After Shaun Corso struck out looking, catcher Ray Guerrini stepped to the dish needing to put the ball in play to push the go-ahead run across. In a 2-2 count, head coach Randy Mazey started both runners on the pitch, and Guerrini laid down a perfect bunt to get Austin home from third.
Pitcher Culver Lamb then made a bad situation for the Monarchs worse by skipping his throw to first into the dirt, allowing a hard-charging Cramer to score from second on the play to give WVU a 4-2 lead heading to the ninth.
Cramer’s add-on run proved to be absolutely vital, as Old Dominion immediately threatened after a lead-off single by second baseman Jason McMurray got underneath the glove of center fielder KC Huth and rolled all the way to the wall, putting McMurray at third with nobody out.
WVU’s closer Blake Smith settled in after that, getting a ground ball and gladly trading a run for a bases empty, one out scenario in the ninth. Smith then got a strike out and a fly out to secure WVU’s eighth win of the year.
West Virginia put itself in an early hole after a messy second inning by starting pitcher Chad Donato spotted Old Dominion a 2-0 lead. Donato settled in nicely after that, and ended up working through 6.1 innings, allowing just the two runs by scattering nine hits, striking out six and walking one.
Sophomore Conner Dotson came in in the middle of the seventh and pitched a perfect 1.2 innings, striking out two batters and picking off a runner at first to get WVU into the ninth.
The Mountaineers tied the game in the bottom of the 6th with a two-run inning, capped by Cramer’s RBI single down the right field line, scoring Cole Austin and setting the stage for the late drama that would unfold.
This was the first of a three-game set West Virginia has on tap with Old Dominion. The Monarchs, now 10-3 on the year, came into this series ranked No. 33 in RPI after a good start to the season that included a big win over No. 10 NC State.
First pitch of game two between the Mountaineers and Monarchs is set for 3 pm with West Virginia looking to take the series before Sunday’s finale.