MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The West Virginia University baseball team erased a 6-0 first-inning deficit, but ultimately lost the series-opener at Middle Tennessee, 8-7, on Friday night at Reese Smith Jr. Field in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The Mountaineers (5-6) trailed 6-0 after one, but chipped away with four runs in the fourth and one in the fifth, sixth and seventh to tie the game at 7-7. However, the Blue Raiders (8-6) scored one unearned run in the eighth to regain the lead. WVU put runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth, but could not tie the game again.
The loss snapped WVU’s three-game winning streak.
Juniors Kyle Gray and Braden Zarbnisky led the team with three hits apiece, while Zarbnisky had a team-high two RBIs. Gray hit his fifth home run of the season and fourth in the last three games in the fifth inning and scored two runs.
On the mound, senior right-handed starter BJ Myers pitched 5.2 innings and allowed seven runs, four earned, on eight hits with three strikeouts and two walks. After giving up six runs, three earned, on five hits in the first, Myers held MTSU to one earned run on three hits in his remaining 4.2 innings.
Senior right-handed reliever Shane Ennis suffered his first loss of the year. He relieved Myers and gave up one unearned run on two hits with three strikeouts and a walk.
After three runners reached and West Virginia stranded a pair in the top of the first, Middle Tennessee answered in the bottom half with six runs, three unearned, on five hits with three WVU errors.
Myers allowed one runner to reach in the second and third, but kept the Mountaineer deficit at 6-0 until West Virginia responded with a four-run inning fourth to cut the MTSU lead to 6-4. The inning featured five walks, a hit batter and a catcher’s interference, and West Virginia did not have a hit.
The inning began with back-to-back walks. A strikeout followed before another walk loaded the bases. Junior shortstop Jimmy Galuskywas then hit by a pitch to bring home the first run, and sophomore center fielder Brandon White walked in WVU’s second run. Zarbnisky drew the fifth walk of the inning to cut the deficit in half, at 6-3. Junior catcher Ivan Gonzalez brought in the final run when he reached on catcher’s interference.
Middle Tennessee answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly, but Myers limited the damage to one.
However, WVU responded right back in the top of the fifth thanks to Gray’s home run to right field that made it a 7-5 game. Myers followed suit with a 1-2-3 bottom half, and West Virginia tacked on another run in the sixth to cut the deficit to one, at 7-6. The run was fueled by an error, as White struck out but reached on a throwing error by the Blue Raider catcher to lead off the inning. He scored on a single by junior right fielder Darius Hill.
Ennis relieved Myers in the bottom of the sixth after a two-out single, and got a fielder’s choice groundout to end the inning.
The Mountaineer comeback peaked in the seventh, as WVU tied the game at 7-7. Gray led off the inning with a single up the middle and scored from second on a two-out base hit by Zarbnisky.
WVU had a chance to take the lead in the eighth, with back-to-back singles to lead off the frame. However, a groundout was turned into a double play as a baserunner attempted to score from third.
MTSU regained an 8-7 lead in the bottom half. Gray made a nice play to throw out a runner at home after a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt, but a one-out double followed with a runner at second. The throwing error led to the run being unearned, the fourth unearned run allowed by the Mountaineers. Back-to-back strikeouts ended the inning and limited the damage to one run.
West Virginia put runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth, as Gray led off the inning with a single and Zarbnisky reached on a two-out, infield single. However, a lineout ended the game.
The series at Reese Smith Jr. Field continues on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. CT, while the series finale on March 11 is at 2 p.m ET.
Cover Photo: Kelsie LeRose, BGS
Press Release Courtesy: WVUsports.com