Early 3-0 lead vanishes as WVU falls to Wake Forest.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (June 3, 2017) – The No. 2-seed West Virginia University baseball team lost to top-seeded and No. 13-ranked Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon in the second game of the NCAA Tournament.
The Mountaineers (35-25) scored three runs in the first inning, but were held to four hits the rest of the game. The Demon Deacons (41-18) rallied with two in the fifth and one in the seventh before walking off on an RBI single in the ninth inning.
The tight ballgame, WVU’s 17th against a top-25 opponent, came in front of a capacity crowd of 3,018 fans at David F. Couch Ballpark, many sporting Old Gold and Blue.
With the loss, West Virginia will face Maryland in the elimination game tomorrow, at noon ET. The winner will advance to play Wake Forest Sunday at 5 p.m. Yesterday, the Mountaineers opened NCAA action with a 9-1 victory over the Terrapins.
While Wake Forest starter Parker Dunshee and reliever Griffin Roberts held WVU to three runs on seven hits, freshman starter Isaiah Kearns, freshman reliever Sam Kessler and sophomore reliever Braden Zarbnisky combined to limit the Demon Deacons to four runs on eight hits.
Wake Forest left 11 runners on base, while the Mountaineers stranded six.
Offensively, senior first baseman Jackson Cramer hit his team-leading 11th home run of the season in the first inning. Zarbnisky and sophomore second baseman Kyle Gray both had two hits.
The Mountaineers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. Gray led off the game with a double, and sophomore right fielder Darius Hill singled him home from second. With two outs, Cramer’s home run to right scored Hill and capped a three-run inning.
Kearns followed with a 1-2-3 bottom of the first, with two strikeouts, and backed it up with a perfect second inning after West Virginia stranded two runners in the top half.
A pair of nice defensive plays helped Kearns face the minimum in the third. After a leadoff walk, Hill tracked down a deep fly ball in right-center field. After making the catch, he fired a two-hopper to Cramer to double off the runner, who had rounded second before trying to retreat back to first. A two-out double followed, but Kearns picked him off at second to end the inning.
West Virginia stranded a runner in the fourth inning, before Kearns left two on base in the bottom half.
The Demon Deacons got on the board with a two-run home run by Bruce Steel in the fifth inning. Kessler relieved Kearns, and got the next three outs to end the inning and keep the Mountaineers ahead, 3-2.
In 4.0 innings, Kearns gave up two runs on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
WVU was retired in order in the sixth, and Kessler stranded two in the bottom half of the inning with two strikeouts, the second coming after a two-out walk.
Wake Forest evened the game in the seventh inning at 3-3. After Kessler got a pair of strikeouts, a walk signaled the end of his night. With Zarbnisky on the mound, an RBI double off the left-center field wall followed. Zarbnisky then walked two to load the bases, but got a swinging strikeout on a 1-2 pitch to end the inning and keep it a tie game.
In his 2.2 innings, Kessler allowed one run on one hit with a career-high-tying five strikeouts.
The Mountaineers stranded two runners in the eighth inning before Zarbnisky got a strikeout to end the bottom of the eighth and leave two Demon Deacons in scoring position.
Wake Forest rallied in the ninth inning with a run to win it. A leadoff single and a sac bunt opened the inning. An intentionally walked put two runners with one out for Gavin Sheets, who singled to right field to bring home the winning run.
Zarbnisky suffered the loss, just the second of his career, while allowing a run on four hits in 1.2 innings with a pair of strikeouts.
Tomorrow, West Virginia will face Maryland in an elimination game at noon ET. The winner of Sunday’s elimination game will face Wake Forest at 5 p.m. ET. If necessary, a final game will be played on Monday, June 4, at 7 p.m., to crown a regional champion.
Every game at David F. Couch Ballpark will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. Doug Sherman and John Gregory will have the call. Fans can listen to all of WVU’s games on the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG on various affiliates throughout the state, online at WVUsports.com, on the Mountaineer Gameday App and the TuneInRadio App. Dan Zangrilli will broadcast the action.
Links to video streams, radio broadcasts and live stats can be found on the baseball schedule page on WVUsports.com. Additional behind-the-scenes updates, news and notes from Winston-Salem can be found on social media by following and connecting with the team at @WVUBaseball on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.