In his second start of the year, freshman Tanner Campbell battled adversity, but showed the sort of fortitude that has convinced head coach Randy Mazey of his ability to be the Mountaineers' mid-week starter. Campbell gave up two earned runs in 4.1 innings in his previous start, but topped that by allowing just one in six against the Highlanders in earning the first win of his career.
It wasn't easy, though. Radford scored a run in the first on two hits, but missed the chance to add more when Zach York fouled out with the bases loaded. The Highlanders put two more aboard in the second, one in the third and two in the fourth, but Campbell was able to make good pitches and get batters to swing, and sometimes miss, at his offerings. He twice fanned catcher Shane Johnsonbaugh with two runners on to end innings.
Even more encouragingly, Campbell appeared to get stronger and settle in as the game went on. He capped his appearance by facing the minimum number of batters over the fifth and sixth. In the process, he lowered his season ERA to 2.61.
After going down in order in the first two innings, West Virginia (10-4) smacked five singles in the third to take control of the game. Catcher Ivan Vera started things off with an infield hit, and Jimmy Galusky, who had two hits on the day, bunted to put two aboard. Kyle Davis' hit to right loaded the bases, and then Darius Hill had a sacrifice fly to tie the score. With two outs, Radford pitcher Tyler Swarmer had the chance to get out of the inning, but Shaun Corso smacked a clutch single back through the box to give the Mountaineers the lead at 3-1. Ever aggressive, Corso then stole second and came around on Marques Inman's rope to right to make it 4-1.
Corso was at it again three innings later, when he again converted in a two-out situation. With the bases loaded, he again timed up a confident swing to rip another hit up the middle, plating Galusky and Vera.
In the meantime, another freshman, Braden Zarbnisky, came on in relief in his second appearance of the season. Working two innings, the Marietta, Ga., native used a near-sidearm motion to keep Radford off balance. After a perfect seventh, he allowed a walk and a hit in the eighth, but sliced a lovely curve for a caught-looking strikeout to end that frame to keep his ERA at 0.00.
The freshman parade continued in the ninth with Endy Morales, who made his first appearance in a Mountaineer uniform. A hit batter, followed by a double from Johnsonbaugh, gave the Highlanders a bookend run to match their tally in the first, and ended his showing one out short of finishing the game. Sophomore Nick Wernke came on to get the final out of the contest.
"We had three different freshmen with two hits apiece, and a freshman on the mound pitched well, and another one behind him, and another one, so there were a lot of positives out there today," head coach Randy Mazey said via WVUSports.
The midweek game also gave some other backups a chance to shine. Ivan Vera, who got his second start of the year behind the plate, produced a pair of hits and a run, and also had an assist when he caught Trevor Riggs on a steal attempt as Riggs overslid second. Jimmy Galusky continued his producutive ways at the bottom of the order, bunting his way aboard for a pair of hits and coming around to score both times.
WVU opens Big 12 play this weekend with a road trip to perennial national power TCU. The Mountaineers will open the series on Friday, Mar. 18 at 7;3) p.m. Eastern, just a few minutes after their men's basketball compatriots tip against Stephen F. Austin. The series continues with a 5:00 p.m game on Saturday and a 2:00 p.m. finale on Sunday. The Mountaineers are expected to roll out their normal weekend rotation of Chad Donato, Ross Vance and B.J. Myers. TCU is currently 12-3 and ranked in the Top 10.
"It's an opportunity to beat one of the best teams in the nation," Mazey said. "I like where we are at right now. We are playing with confidence, so there's no better time to go play them."
Vera and Galusky produced four of WVU's ten hits from the eighth and ninth spots in the batting order. Inman and Corso also had two hits apiece.
Swarmer (0-2) took the loss for Radford, allowing four earned runs on seven hits in six innings of work. He was one of six Highlander pitchers to see action in the game.