West Virginia Hangs On After Five-Run 8th Inning Pulls Herd Within 9-8 Final Margin

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Kyle Davis hit a three-run homer and Jackson Cramer drove in four runs as West Virginia survived a fierce Marshall rally to hang on for a 9-8 win here Wednesday.

The Mountaineers led 9-3 entering the 8th inning, but gave up a run-scoring single and a grand slam as Marshall got within a run. The Herd then twice brought the winning run to the plate before closer Blake Smith was able to induce a pop out to catcher Ray Guerrini and strike out pinch hitter Andrew Zban to take the one-run advantage into the ninth.

Smith then retired the side in order in the last inning - including a strikeout of MU's leading home run hitter in Tommy Lane - as WVU completed the season sweep of the series.

"We started fastballs out and I was able to do that early," said Smith, who notched his fifth save with the clutch performance. "Then I was trying to bury a slider (against Lane), and I missed a couple up. I threw a change-up and missed. He gave me a slider, and I said all right, this has to be the one. I gotta get it down."

He did, Lane flailing away at the full count offering to end the game. But it wasn't as easy as it appeared to be just two innings earlier.

Davis seemed to put the game away when he pulled a two-strike breaking ball over left field wall to put the Mountaineers ahead 7-3 in the 7th inning. That should have easily secured the win for BJ Myers, the usual Sunday starter who pitched four solid innings of relief. Myers entered in the 4th inning and allowed five hits and three runs in his first non-starting appearance of the season. But Brandon Boone and Jacob Brewer combined to allow the five runs while recording just one out as Marshall made the late push against the Mountaineer bullpen.

"Wouldn't it be nice to have a 9-3 game one time against these guys?" WVU head coach Randy Mazey recalled saying in the pregame. "When I looked up and it was 9-3 I thought I called that. But every single time we have played Marshall it has been a dogfight. It challenges the Mountaineers to play well, and every guy in the line-up played well tonight offensively."

West Virginia (21-18) knocked around six Marshall pitchers while pounding out 13 hits and scoring in four different innings. Davis' blast blew the game open after Cramer kept the Mountaineers close with a pair of RBI singles in the 1st and 4th innings. The latter put the Mountaineers ahead 4-3 entering the 7th, and a walk and single then set-up Davis' team-leading sixth home run of the season for the 7-3 advantage.

That chased the third MU pitcher of the game in Heston Van Fleet, and the next two Herd relievers combined for just one out while allowing a double, triple and single in consecutive batters as WVU extended the lead to 9-3. Darius Hill, who went 3-for-3, had a double down the rightfield line, and scored his fourth run of the game on Ivan Vera's RBI triple. Vera, 2-for-2 with a pair of extra base hits, scored on another Cramer single, and the game seemed well in hand before the late rally sparked by Tyler Ratliff's grand slam off Brewer.

Cramer went 3-for-4 with the four RBI, while Vera drove in two runs. Vera, a freshman, is now hitting a team-best .424. Davis finished 1-for-4 with the three-run homer. Myers (5-3) picked up the win, scattering the five hits and allowing three runs. Smith pitched the final 1.2 innings, striking out three. 

"Blake made a really good pitch at a really good time," Mazey said of the final strikeout against Lane. "That guy's a good hitter. Blake had thrown some sliders up and you worry about that, but he made a really good pitch at a good time."

Marshall (21-17) was led by Ratliff's four RBI and two runs scored. Two other MU players had multi-hit games as the Herd dropped both contests to WVU this season after losing 5-4 in 10 innings on April 5 in Charleston. 

The Mountaineers took a quick 2-0 lead in 1st inning. A leadoff single, followed by a sac bunt, another single and passed ball put a pair of runners in scoring position for Vera, whose sacrifice fly made it 1-0. Cramer then singled to left to plate Hill. The two combined for another run in the 4th inning, Cramer's single to enter allowing Hill to come around from second base for a 3-0 lead.

The Mountaineers had another chance to score in the 3rd, but Jimmy Galusky was thrown out at the plate trying to tag from second and score on a deep fly out to center by Davis. Mazey waved Galusky from third, but the freshman was easily thrown out at the plate.

That was the end for starter Braden Zarbnisky, who pitched three scoreless innings before giving way to Myers to start the 4th inning. Myers faced the minimum in his first frame, but quickly got into trouble in the 5th, allowing Sam Finfer's two-run homer to right center field. It was the team-worst fifth of the season off Myers, who then gave up three straight singles to tie the game and put runners at second and third with just one out. His defense backed him, however, as a routine ground out to short was followed by a diving stop at third by Vera, who threw out Lane at first to save at least one run. That seemed to settle Myers, who cruised through the 6th and 7th innings before giving way in the 8th.

WVU entered having lost seven of their last 11 and was just 119th in the RPI. Marshall was 99th. The game began a home slate-ending 12-game stand for the Mountaineers, now 43-24 all-time against the Herd.

West Virginia returns to action this weekend as it plays host to Baylor in a three-game set. The Bears (18-22, 5-10 Big 12) are currently in seventh place in the league, two spots behind WVU. The Mountaineers, 6-8 in conference, are expected to start Chad Donato (1-3, 3.39 ERA) in trying to win a Friday game for the first time in four weekend series. 

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