MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Solid in his second straight midweek start, Ross Vance appears to have pitched himself into West Virginia’s weekend rotation.
Vance fired six innings of three-hit ball and leadoff batter Bobby Boyd hit his first homer in exactly two years as the Mountaineers pummeled Maryland 14-2 on Tuesday night at Hawley.
West Virginia (20-16), which won for the fourth time in five games, racked up 16 hits while posting its largest margin of victory since a 20-6 win over Eastern Michigan on March 22, 2011. Enjoying a blowout was an unexpected luxury against the Terrapins (24-15), who entered the day at No. 19 in the RPI.
Brad Johnson put West Virginia ahead 3-0 with an RBI double in the second and a two-run single in the fourth before Boyd’s three-run shot over the right-field fence highlighted a five-run fifth that made it 8-0.
Though Vance (2-0) gave up his only run in the top of the sixth—snapping his scoreless innings streak at 13—WVU tacked on three more runs in the bottom half, allowing coach Randy Mazey to lift his left-hander after 90 pitches. Vance will have four days to rest before facing Kansas State on Sunday.
“We joked around before the game about getting a big lead so we could keep his pitch count down and run him out here this weekend, but we haven’t had a big lead all year,” Mazey said. “Ironically we wound up getting a big lead and got him out of there, so we’ll be able to pitch him this weekend.”
Vance, after striking out 14 Ohio State batters last week in a complete-game win, wasn’t so dominant this time. Yet he fanned six, walked one and allowed only three singles to the team with the third-highest on-base percentage in the ACC.
He also wore a broad smile as he played catch in the bullpen while West Virginia batted around in the fifth.
“I always say that the game is better played when it’s loose,” said Vance. “I don’t play well when I’m tight or trying to press. If I can go out there and have fun, usually things fall into place.”
Boyd had not homered since April 22, 2012, against Pitt, but he turned around a 3-1 pitch from Maryland starter Tayler Stiles (2-2) to break open the game. That was the end of the line for Stiles—four-plus innings, seven hits, six earned runs—while the WVU dugout erupted over Boyd’s rare show of power.
“There was a guy on third base and I was just thinking about score him with a fly ball,” Boyd said. “I just happened to get a good piece of it.”
Boyd added an RBI triple in the sixth against Jared Price, who was tagged for six hits on five earned runs in one inning.
Michael Constantini had three hits, while Johnson and Cameron O’Brien each had two hits and two RBIs. Johnson lifted his season average to .400, though he has had only 20 at-bats.
“The kid’s playing with confidence, Mazey said. “He got off to a slow start this season, but he made a decision that he was going to play loosely. He sure has responded big time.”
Pascal Paul threw two innings of shutout relief for the Mountaineers before Joby Lapkowicz gave up Kevin Martir’s solo homer in the ninth.
WVU HOSTS MARSHALL
After West Virginia’s RPI climbed to 27, the doldrums from a recent seven-game losing streak were all but forgotten. However, with Marshall (14-20) scheduled to visit Hawley Field on Wednesday night, Mazey warned his players not to overlook the Herd, despite their No. 168 RPI.
“This is a trap game … and we’re primed for a letdown,” Mazey said. “When that happens, the leaders on the team need to make sure we come with energy.
“We can’t afford to take a day off and not show up tomorrow. We’ve got a lot to play for, and a loss (Wednesday) would really hurt us in the RPI.”