West Virginia Builds 4-0 Lead, Survives Virginia Tech Rally In One-Run Victory

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Jackson Cramer hit his sixth home run of the season and West Virginia survived a pair of late Virginia Tech threats to win 5-4 here Tuesday.

Cramer's sixth home run of the season made it 4-0 in the 5th inning, and WVU seemed well on its way to a fifth win in six games. But Virginia Tech loaded the bases in the 6th, scoring one run before reliever Jackson Sigman struck out two to minimize the threat.  After West Virginia got the run back in the bottom half, the Hokies again loaded the bases, this time scoring three runs to get within 5-4 in the 7th inning before Connor Dotson was able to get the final two outs and snuff the rally.

The Mountaineers were in survival mode from there, bringing in seldom-used right-hander Endy Morales for the 8th and closer Blake Smith in the last inning to seal their third straight midweek victory. West Virginia (24-19) pounded out eight hits overall, the majority over the first five frames in building the four-run lead. Tech (15-31) finished with 10 hits.

At its essence, it was the definition of a midweek game against a pair of middling teams. The Hokies entered losers of two in a row and seven of 10 - and left a game worse - while WVU continues to try to climb out of a hole built via four bad nonconference losses to Canisius and Furman, and a lost series to Kansas State, the Big 12's last place team. Cramer went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored, and six other Mountaineers combined for the other half dozen hits. Six relievers finished the game for starter Braden Zarbnisky (2-0), who scattered three hits over four shutout innings before being pulled.

The Mountaineers were methodical early, building a 4-0 lead through five innings while scoring in four different frames. The most impressive blow came from Cramer, whose sixth home run of the season was a solo shot well over the right-center wall that tied him with Kyle Davis for the team lead.

Among the biggest moments of the game came an inning later, when a struggling Brandon Boone walked the bases loaded on 12 balls over 16 pitches. Jackson Sigman came on with one out and sandwiched two strikeouts around an RBI single to minimize the damage and escape with a 4-1 lead. West Virginia got the run back the next inning to go ahead 5-1 before Virginia Tech scored three runs in the 7th to get within 5-4.

WVU went ahead 1-0 in the 1st inning when Davis walked, advanced to second base on a sac bunt and scored on Ivan Vera's RBI single to center. WVU tacked on another run the next inning on Jimmy Galusky's sac fly to left, then scored again in the 3rd for a 3-0 lead when Darius Hill reached on an error, moved to second base on a bunt and third on a single and scored when Tech starter Nick Anderson (0-1) was called for a balk. 

West Virginia threatened to open the game up later in the inning with runners at the corners and one out before Potter and Austin struck out swinging. Zarbnisky then threw the top of the 4th, finishing with no runs and three hits allowed in his third start of the season before giving way to Brandon Boone. Boone worked just four outs and loaded the bases on three consecutive walks before Mazey's call to the bullpen for Jackson Sigman.

The late runs somewhat erased the memory of the solid outing for Zarbnisky, who finished with three strikeouts and a walk in his third straight start. The freshman's four scoreless frames helped stake the Mountaineers to the early 4-0 lead, and should have him in position for another midweek start against Maryland in one week.

Virginia Tech was led by two hits from second baseman Matt Dauby and a pair of RBI by three-hitter Tom Stoffel.

WVU is now 33-53-1 all-time against the Hokies. This was the first series game in Morgantown since 2003.

West Virginia continues play this weekend in hosting a three-game series versus Big 12 foe Texas. The Longhorns (20-24, 9-9) make their first trip to Mon County Ballpark, and are currently fourth in the conference, one spot ahead of the Mountaineers (8-9). WVU is expected to start ace Chad Donato (2-3, 2.99 ERA), who was named the NCBWA Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday after throwing a complete game two-hit shutout in a 10-0 win over Baylor last Friday.

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