MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Another big day offensively for the West Virginia University baseball team helped fuel a 10-4, series-clinching victory at Middle Tennessee early Sunday afternoon in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The Mountaineers (7-6) have won two in a row and five of their last six. After the Blue Raiders (8-8) took a 4-1 lead in the second inning, WVU scored in five consecutive innings, going on a 9-0 run in that stretch, to regain the lead and break the game open.
In 13 games this year, West Virginia has scored 10 or more runs three times and seven or more runs in each of the last six games. With 15 hits, the Mountaineers recorded double-digit hits for the ninth time.
“I really like where our offense is right now, I think we’re swinging the bats well all the way through the lineup,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “We needed a good outing from Kade Strowd, and I thought he pitched really well today. We need more guys to do exactly what he did.”
Offensively, all but one starter had at least one hit, while six had one or more RBI and six scored at least one run.
Junior second baseman Kyle Gray had three hits, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored to lead the way, while freshman designated hitter Connor Hamilton, making his first career start, had two hits and three RBIs, his first hits and RBIs as a Mountaineer.
Junior right fielder Darius Hill hit his second home run of the season and ninth of his career in the fifth inning, part of a two-hit day. Sophomore shortstop Jimmy Galusky also had two hits and two RBIs to go along with a pair of walks.
“That’s the good thing about our team, if we have a couple of guys in the lineup that aren’t seeing the ball very well right now, the rest of the guys can pick them up,” Mazey added. “That’s a good, balanced team when you can say that.”
Sophomore right-hander Kade Strowd earned the win and improved to 2-1 on the season. In 5.2 innings, he allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits. He had a career-high 11 strikeouts and struck out two batters in five of his six innings on the mound. Outside of allowing four runs, three earned, on three hits in the second, Strowd held MTSU to no runs on one hit in his remaining 4.2 innings on the mound.
For the ninth time this season, WVU scored first, with a run in the second on an RBI single by Galusky to score sophomore first baseman Marques Inman.
The Blue Raiders followed with four runs in the bottom half to take a 4-1 lead. A wild pitch scored the first, before an error helped MTSU bring in one unearned run in the inning.
After a 1-2-3 third inning for both teams, the Mountaineers stormed back with four runs on four hits in the fourth to regain a 5-4 lead. Inman got the scoring going with his second double of the day that scored Hill with the help of an error. A hit batter followed, and Galusky doubled home Inman. Hamilton then doubled in two, for his first career hit and RBI.
The Mountaineers added on with a run in the fifth on Hill’s home run to right field to lead off the inning. It was WVU’s fourth home run this weekend, all coming in the fifth innings, and gave West Virginia a 6-4 lead.
Junior third baseman Andrew Zitel made it 7-4 with a two-out single in the sixth that scored junior left fielder Braden Zarbnisky. The single extended Zitel’s career-long and team-best hitting streak to nine games. Zitel has reached base in all 10 games he has had an at-bat in this season, while Zarbnisky has reached in all seven games and has a hit in his last six games.
Strowd followed with a pair of strikeouts in the bottom half of the sixth, his fifth inning with two strikeouts. Sophomore righty Sam Kessler relieved Strowd and got the final out of the sixth, stranding a runner on first.
West Virginia tacked on a run in the seventh to extend its lead to 8-4. Gray led off the inning with a double and scored on Hamilton’s second hit of the day, an RBI single through the left side.
WVU wasn’t done though, and scored two more in the eighth, as Gray ripped a double down the right-field line that scored two.
Sophomore righty Dillon Meadows made his Mountaineer debut in the eighth and retired the side with a pair of strikeouts.
Zarbnisky secured the victory with a 1-2-3 inning on the mound.
Up next, WVU remains in the Volunteer State for its first mid-week contests of the season at Tennessee Tech. The series begins on Tuesday, March 13, at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT. First pitch on Wednesday, March 14, has been moved up to 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT, in Cookeville, Tenn.
Press Release Credit: WVUsports.com
Cover Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS