Friday night's home opener between West Virginia (11-8) and Jacksonville (11-13) featured a pitcher's duel for much of the night until Jackson Cramer's bat broke things open in the bottom of the ninth. While those who attended the match-up will surely remember Cramer's late game heroics, the performance of Jacksonville starting pitcher Michael Baumann shouldn't be forgotten.
Baumann, who entered the contest with a 1-2 record and ERA of 3.04, threw 12 strikeouts and allowed just one earned run on the evening. The junior regularly frustrated Mountaineer hitters in his 7.2 inning performance and didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning when Braden Zarbnisky finally broke through with a bunt that blooped over the pitcher's head.
For West Virginia it was B.J. Myers on the mound and for the most part the junior threw a solid game (three earned runs in 5.2 innings pitched). However the Dolphins got their offense going early and scored on a Sam Armstrong RBI double. The Dolphins held that 1-0 advantage until the fifth inning when Nathan Koslowski hit a double that split outfielders Darius Hill and Brandon White and scored Dakota Julylia. Jacksonville led off the sixth inning with a pair of singles and two batters later Chris Lehae hit a sacrifice fly to left field that gave Baumman another insurance run to work with.
Down 3-0 in the bottom half of the seventh, the Mountaineers' offense finally showed some signs of life. Freshman Chase Illig grounded a ball by Julylia for a single to start things off and a pair of wild pitches moved him to third. It was Brandon White who brought Illig home with a RBI single to center field and cut the Dolphins' lead to 3-1.
The Mountaineers stranded a pair of runners on base in the eighth and Spencer Stockton came out to close the game for Jacksonville in the bottom half of the ninth. Ivan Gonzales and Jimmy Galusky reached on a throwing error and a walk to open the inning and a perfectly executed Brandon White bunt moved the pair of runners to second and third. A couple of batters later a throwing error from third to first allowed Kyle Davis to reach first safely and both runners to score, tying the game at three with two outs.
That's when Jackson Cramer stepped up to the plate and blasted a 1-1 pitch to deep center. The rest, as they say, is history and the Mountaineers won their home opener 5-3 over the Dolphins. Freshman Kade Strowd earned the win for West Virginia after pitching 3.1 innings of excellent relief work.
The series will conclude tomorrow when the Mountaineers and Jacksonville square off in a double header. The first game will begin at 3:00 p.m. and the second game will begin 30 minutes after game one ends.