The West Virginia Mountaineers (19-16) cranked out 13 runs on 12 hits with two home runs to blow the doors off lowly Youngstown State (7-22) Tuesday night at Monongalia County Ballpark.
Freshman Darius Hill got the hit parade started right from the jump, turning on a 1-2 pitch and sending it into the home bullpen for a lead-off homer.
The bats would go quiet through the middle innings, and Youngstown State evened the score 1-1 in the third to put the pressure back on, but WVU responded in a major way in the middle innings.
West Virginia broke through for two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth, four in the seventh and five in the eighth to turn a close game into a complete blowout, giving head coach Randy Mazey reason to be optimistic after the 13-3 score went final.
“We got 12 hits and nine of them were extra base hits. Really, going into this weekend series at Oklahoma, really couldn’t have scripted this one any better because we needed some guys to throw,” Mazey said.
One of those guys was freshman utility man Braden Zarbnisky, who has played all over the field for WVU this year, including moonlighting as a spot starter which he did for the first time tonight. The Marietta, Georgia native tossed three innings of one run baseball, and furthered Mazey’s confidence in him heading into an important weekend series at Oklahoma.
Zarbnisky led the way for a group of relatively new faces on the mound tonight. Brandon Boone, Seth Jordan, Endy Morales and Jackson Sigman all saw time on the bump tonight, and none of them did anything to show their coach they weren’t worth of his trust.
“Zarb, mister offensive hero, showed that he’s going to be a pretty good pitcher here. We got him out of there so he’s ready to use this weekend. Brandon Boone pitched really well. Jackson Sigman came in at the end of the game, he’s a reliever, and he only faced one hitter because that’s the most important hitter he ever faces is the first hitter. He’s usually in there with guys on base,” Mazey said.
“With the pitching the way it was, and the offense the way it was, getting some of the young guys going, like I said, you couldn’t have scripted that one any better.”
Adding to the favorable script for WVU was a breakout performance by freshman Cole Austin, who came into tonight’s game scuffling at the plate to the tune of a .188 batting average.
He turned that around with a 2-for-4 effort at the plate that included a homer and three RBIs. According to his coach, the young freshman was just pressing a bit too much at the plate at times, which prompted Mazey to reach out to him recently.
“He’s a typical freshman. He’s been getting frustrated because of results. We try to ignore results around here, but kids are kids, and you guys want to talk about batting averages and earned run averages. The stats are so much in your face these days. We have a goal board in there that talks about having quality at-bats and focusing on the process instead of the result,” Mazey said.
“He had to fight his way through some frustration and we had to carry him through some of his frustration, and convince him that it’s not all about the batting average. It’s about the process. He had good at-bats against Kansas State this weekend. I texted him the other night and said ‘Stay with it. The results are going to come.’”
The results are starting to come for some of WVU’s young talent, but the Mountaineers will need that trend to continue this weekend when they travel to Oklahoma to take on a Sooner team that sits one game behind them in the Big 12 standings.