JACKSONVILLE, Fla.–The No. 22 West Virginia University baseball team began the 2018 season with a 5-4 victory at Jacksonville on Friday night on a warm evening at John Sessions Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Mountaineers (1-0) used a four-run fourth inning and a solo home run by sophomore catcher Chase Illig in the fifth to go along with 4.2 shutout innings from four relievers in the bullpen.
“We play so much on the road to start the season, you have to learn to win on the road,” sixth-year coach Randy Mazey said. “You take a one-run lead into the ninth inning against a good team, the top of their lineup, you know they’re going to scrap their way back. That’s a really good win for us.”
Senior righty Shane Ennis earned the win, allowing no runs on two hits in 2.1 innings pitched. Sophomore right-hander Sam Kessler got the final two outs of the game to pick up his first career save.
The West Virginia pitching staff held the Dolphins (0-1) to four runs on seven hits. Three of JU’s runs were unearned. Senior starter BJ Myers allowed all four runs, one earned, on four hits with four strikeouts and a walk in 4.1 innings.
The bullpen held Jacksonville to just three hits in the final 4.2 innings. JU stranded a runner in scoring position in each of the last five innings.
“With men on base, they made quality pitches when they really needed to,” Mazey said of the bullpen. “I don’t know if we had a 1-2-3 inning at all tonight, but we’re always pitching with guys on base and made a lot of great pitches with men on base.”
Illig paced the Mountaineer offensive attack, going 2-for-4 with his fourth career home run and two runs scored. Junior shortstop Jimmy Galusky also had two hits and an RBI. WVU’s 10 hits came from eight different hitters, while all five runs were driven in by different Mountaineers.
After stranding a pair of runners in each of the first two innings, WVU jumped out with four runs on two hits with the help of an error in the fourth. The Mountaineers scored one run on a bases-loaded walk and the final two via the sacrifice.
Illig led things off with a double and scored on a single by Galusky. Sophomore center fielder Brandon White then drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 2-0. Junior second baseman Kyle Gray’s sacrifice fly drove home Galusky, and junior third baseman Ivan Gonzalez followed with a sac fly of his own to drive in sophomore left fielder TJ Lake.
The Dolphins answered WVU’s four-run top of the fourth inning with three runs in the bottom half, all unearned. An RBI single with one out came after a throwing error for the first unearned run, and a two-run, two-out home run occurred after the second error would have ended the frame.
Illig wasted no time getting a run back in the fifth, with a solo home run to right-center field. His solo shot put the Mountaineers ahead, 5-3 and proved to be the game-winner.
Jacksonville responded though with a run of their own in the bottom of the fifth on a two-out single to make it 5-4. After Myers got the first two outs of the frame, he departed with two runners on. Ennis came in and allowed two to reach but limited the damage to one run before a groundout ended the inning and stranded a pair.
Ennis left two runners on in the sixth inning, and sophomore righty Cody Wood came in with a runner on second and two outs in the seventh and got a strikeout to end the inning and strand another runner.
In 2.1 innings, Ennis gave up just two hits with a strikeout and a walk. Wood’s strikeout was the lone batter he faced in the contest.
For the fourth consecutive inning, WVU pitchers stranded a Jacksonville runner in scoring position in the eighth. Junior Conner Dotson allowed a one-out single before back-to-back called strikeouts to end the inning and leave the JU runner on second.
With a runner on and one out, Kessler relieved Dotson and got the final two outs to pick up the save.
The series at John Sessions Stadium continues Saturday, Feb. 17, at 2 p.m., with the finale between WVU and JU on Sunday at noon.
Cover Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS
Press Release: WVUSports.com