"I've been seeing the ball well since the start of the TCU series," Gonzalez said in something of an understatement as he explained his 4-5 night at the plate. "Right now I am just feeling really good at the plate and I hope to keep rolling with it."
After sitting out Sunday's win over TCU after getting tangled up with a Horned Frog fielder at first base, one might have expected him to ease back into play in the mid-week game against Marshall. Sporting a large ankle wrap, he was limited to pinch hitting duty late in that game, and it might have been expected that he would sit out this game as well, in order to be fully ready for the weekend Big 12 series at Kansas State. However, he was not only in the starting lineup, but hitting in the two hole, and was on fire from the get-go. He ripped singles in both the first and third innings, and came around to score after both. Those hits helped push WVU out to an early lead that it never relinquished.
"Not really," Gonzalez said when asked if he was suffering any lingering aftereffects from the injury. "I've been going to treatment and that's been helping me out. I didn't really feel it this game."
He may not have been feeling the ankle, but he was certainly feeling it at the plate. In the fourth, with runners and the corners, he blasted a shot to deep left centerfield. Unfortunately for him, the ball hopped over the wall, which sent Brandon White, who would have easily scored on the hit, back to third. That cost Gonzalez an RBI and the Mountaineers a run, but he wasted little time in making up for it.
After Marshall scored two in the bottom of the fifth to cut WVU's lead to 5-4, Gonzalez came to the plate with Kyle Gray aboard. He smashed another drive to left, but this one cleared the wall on the fly, reestablishing West Virginia's three-run lead. That hit put an end to the back and forth scoring that had seen the teams score in eight of their first 11 at-bats, and helped reliever Riley Troutt settle in to the finest pitching performance of his short Mountaineer career. WVU added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, but in reality Gonzalez' blast was the definitive moment.
Gonzalez' night at the plate lifted his season batting average 24 points to .303. Head coach Randy Mazey credits some of his improved hitting to more rest -- or at least fewer appearances behind the plate. Although Gonzalez has 27 starts and 31 games played this year, he has been splitting time at catcher, first with Marques Inman, who is now out for the year with an injury, and now with Chase Illig. That decreased wear and tear is helping his already formidable hitting skills, and could continue to pay dividends as the Mountaineers enter the final month of the regular season.