The Mountaineers (15-10, 4-2 Big 12) won their third consecutive weekend series and improved to 6-2 against top-25 teams, all on the road. WVU is 7-3 in its last 10 games and a 4-2 league record is tied for second in the Big 12 Conference.
With a steady drizzle falling throughout much of the game at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, West Virginia led 1-0 in the second inning before the Cowboys (16-11, 1-5 Big 12) answered to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom half. With the help of freshman designated hitter Chase Illig’s first career grand slam, the Mountaineers answered with five runs in the third inning and never looked back.
Trailing 9-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Oklahoma State scored three runs in the eighth and two in the ninth, but the bullpen hung on and did not relinquish the lead.
Freshman right-hander Kade Strowd made his first career start, after scheduled starter Conner Dotson suffered an injury while warming up. Strowd pitched 4.1 innings and allowed two runs on two hits with two strikeouts and five walks.
“When you have an injury, other people have to step up,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “Chase Illig has done really well filling in the last week, and today two more freshmen, Kade Strowd and Ryan McDonald, go out there and win a game on the road in the Big 12. This weekend was littered with freshmen doing really well in roles they’re not accustomed too.”
Freshman righty Ryan McDonald relieved Strowd and earned his first career win, going 3.1 innings and allowing four runs on four hits with three strikeouts and no walks.
Illig’s grand slam, his third home run of the season and the Mountaineers’ first grand slam of the year, highlighted WVU’s day at the plate. Illig led the team with two hits and a career-high four RBIs. Senior first baseman Jackson Cramer added a hit and two RBIs, including the eventual game-winner in the eighth inning.
Strowd got his day started with a one-out walk in the first inning, but escaped the jam with the runner on second with a pickoff to end the inning.
The Mountaineers took a 1-0 lead in the second on sophomore shortstop Jimmy Galusky’s double down the left-field line. The hit scored Illig from first, who got things started with a two-out walk.
Oklahoma State responded though with two runs in the bottom of the second. A leadoff walk was followed by a one-out home run by Dustin Williams to give OSU a 2-1 lead.
West Virginia wasted no time in regaining the lead, at 6-2, thanks to Illig’s grand slam in the third inning. A single, walk and an error loaded the bases for sophomore right fielder Darius Hill, who reached on an infield single to bring in the first run. With the bases still loaded and no outs, Illig launched his first career grand slam into the Mountaineer bullpen in right field.
Two runners reached in the bottom of the third with one out, but Strowd got out of the jam with a fly-out and a strikeout to strand a pair. The freshman followed with a clean fourth inning before being relieved by McDonald with one on and one out in the fifth inning.
Both teams added a run in the sixth inning. WVU made it 7-2 when Cramer grounded out to score freshman center fielder Brandon White from third. In the bottom half, Colin Simpson homered to lead off the inning and cut the West Virginia lead to 7-3.
The Mountaineers and Cowboys both were retired in order in the seventh, the only 1-2-3 innings for either team.
West Virginia followed with two runs in the top of the eighth. Sophomore catcher Ivan Gonzalez brought in the first run with a triple to the warning track in center field, and Cramer singled him home to make it 9-3.
However, Oklahoma State answered with three runs on four hits in the bottom of the eighth to cut the West Virginia lead to three, at 9-6. Simpson hit his second home run of the day, followed by an RBI single. Senior right-handed reliever Jackson Sigman got the final out of the inning on a strikeout, stranding a runner at first base.
The Cowboys scored two in the ninth to cut it to 9-8, but sophomore righty Braden Zarbnisky got a popup to end the game. Zarbnisky earned the save, the first of his career.
West Virginia returns home for its next five games, beginning with in-state rival Marshall on Tuesday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. ET, and Morehead State on Wednesday, April 5, at 5 p.m. ET. Both games are dollar days, where tickets and select concession items are just $1. The Morehead State game was originally rescheduled for March 14, but postponed to April 5 due to inclement weather. Tickets for March 14 will be valid on April 5. Additionally, tickets for both of next week’s games are on sale now, at 1-800-WVU GAME, WVUGAME.com or at the Mountaineer Ticket Office in the WVU Coliseum.
NOTES: WVU improved to 15-10 on the season and is tied for second in the Big 12 with a 4-2 record … The Mountaineers are 6-2 against top-25 teams, all on the road, and 7-3 in their last 10 games … Chase Illig hit his first career grand slam and his third home run of the season in the third inning and had a career-high four RBIs … Illig’s grand slam was WVU’s first this season … Reliever Ryan McDonald earned his first career win, pitching 3.1 innings and allowing four runs on four hits with three strikeouts and no walks … Making his first career start, Kade Strowd pitched 4.1 innings, allowing two runs on two hits with three strikeouts and five walks … Braden Zarbnisky got the final out of the game and earned his first career save.