West Virginia's Ivan Gonzalez had an outstanding day at the plate, ripping hits on his first four at-bats. He finished 4-5 for the day with three RBI and three runs scored, and applied the coup de grace with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth to give the Mountaineers a 7-4 lead. Meanwhile, freshman pitcher Riley Troutt, in his longest appearance of the season, hurled the final five innings while allowing no earned runs to give a boost to WVU's shaky bullpen. Coming on after starter Kade Strowd and reliever Isaiah Kerns had both issued four pitch walks to open the bottom of the fifth, Troutt managed to limit Marshall to two runs, with one of those coming on a fielding error.
"We needed someone to come in and take charge of the game, and Riley Troutt did that," head coach Randy Mazey said afterward. "That's more pitches than he has thrown the whole season, but he was still fresh and throwing well. He wanted to go back out there, and that's exactly what we needed."
The game ground slowly through the first five innings, as each team mounted multiple threats and batters went deep into the order. For the fifth consecutive game, West Virginia (22-13) scored in the first inning. The Mountaineers put up two early runs courtesy of Darius Hill and Jimmy Galusky RBI singles, followed by a scoreless at bat for each side. Then the ping-pong game began, as the teams traded single runs in each of the next two halves of their frames. Marshall scored in the bottom of the second, but WVU got it right back with a balk that plated Gonzalez in the top of the third.
Marshall again dented the plate in the bottom of the third, but West Virginia replied on a Gonzalez RBI double. That blast, which bounced over the left centerfield wall, proved to be a break for the Herd, as the ground rule hit forced WVU baserunner Brandon White back to third. He would have easily scored from first on the play had the ball stayed alive, but the Herd then got a double play to end what was a serious scoring threat.
Strowd was able to get ahead of batters early in the count, but was often unable to close out hitters after building that advantage. Marshall, staying patient at the plate, worked deep into at-bat after at-bat, and did a good job in fouling off borderline calls before working walks or coming up with knocks. Strowd threw 95 pitches in just four innings of work, yielding three runs on five hits and four walks.
The Mountaineers gained a bit of breathing room when Kyle Davis blasted a home run to left to go up 5-2 in the top of the fifth, but Marshall again bounced back with a pair of runs courtesy of free passes and an error. After Strowd walked the leadoff hitter on four pitches, Isaiah Kearns came on, but could not throw a strike, and issued another free pass on four balls. That brought on Troutt, who yielded a hit and was victimized by an error at third, which allowed two Marshall two runs. That, though, proved to be the last damage the Herd could inflict.
Gonzalez, already 3-3 at the plate on the day, continued the theme of Mountaineer responses by crushing a two-run homer to left in the top of the sixth, giving Troutt some breathing room. Gonzalez was the only Mountaineer to collect more than one hit, but every starter save Kyle Gray had a single hit, and Gray had two walks.
Troutt, who had pitched a total of just seven innings all season, added five to his total, and kept his season ERA at zero in earning the win. Although he allowed four hits, he did not walk a batter, and struck out four on a total of just 69 pitches. Forty-six of his 69 offerings were strikes, and he has now fanned nine batters against just two walks in 12 total innings.
"He came in and threw strikes, and that's what we have to do," pitching coach Derek Matlock said afterward. "I give Mazey all the credit. He didn't yell at the guys after this weekend. He told them to calm down and pitch, and that he knew they were capable. Riley showed that tonight. He was well rested, so we didn't have to worry about a pitch count or anything like that."
The win kept WVU at the number eight spot in the RPI rankings, while Marshall (18-18), dropped to 100. WVU now leads the series 45-24, and is 15-3 over the last 18 games against the Herd. The Mountaineers travel to Kansas State on Friday for a three game series with the Wildcats, who are 18-18 overall and 2-10 in the Big 12. The Mountaineers, at 8-4, are tied with Texas Tech, and trail league leader TCU by one game.