MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Pitcher Ross Vance and right fielder Brad Johnson were unforeseen contributors when Big 12 baseball play opened five weeks ago. But on Sunday they continued emerging as key components in West Virginia’s chase for an NCAA regional bid.

Vance, the soft-tossing left-hander, won his third straight start by holding Kansas State to five hits over seven innings. And Johnson, an afterthought throughout the nonconference schedule, continued his hot hitting by driving home the first three runs in a 6-1 victory that secured West Virginia’s weekend sweep at Hawley Field.

The Mountaineers (24-16, 7-7) won their sixth consecutive game and eighth of their last nine, another momentum builder for a team that entered the day with an RPI of 27.

Kansas State (23-22, 4-11), which arrived in Morgantown as the Big 12′s top-hitting team, was outscored 22-7 in the three-game series.

Wildcats hitters whiffed seven times against the skinny, 5-foot-11 Vance (3-0), baffled by his sweeping curve that gives extra life to a average fastball.

“I know they come out to the park and say, ‘Little guy’s coming to the mind, so let’s rake today.’ And I know every time that happens it gets frustrating for them,” Vance said.

“It’s frustrating getting out by someone who doesn’t throw very hard, someone who doesn’t seem like he’s got a whole lot coming at you. I love it when i hear yells and guys throwing stuff in the dugout.”

Vance led 5-0 in the seventh when he made his only regrettable pitch, which K-State’s Tanner DeVinny turned into a solo shot off the left-field foul pole. Otherwise, Ross was in command, issuing zero walks to continue a stunning three-game surge since joining the starting rotation. In those 22 innings, he has allowed three runs on 16 hits—only two foe extra bases—while posting a 27-to-3 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

“I didn’t expect it would go this well,” he said. “But I knew if I got a chance, if I got a start, I was going to jump on it.”

Johnson can empathize. A corner infielder who felt buried on the preseason depth chart, he asked coach Randy Mazey in January for a chance to try right field. During his first practice out there, he jammed his right wrist trying to make a sliding catch.

The injury and shaky confidence contributed to Johnson getting only nine at-bats through the season’s first 33 games.

But now he looks like a mainstay in the middle of the order, having gone 13-of-24 with 13 RBIs in his last seven games.

“I think I’ve secured my role, so that helps a lot at the plate,” he said.

After popping out with two runners aboard in the first inning, Johnson made amends in the fourth. His single down the left-field line to score the game’s first run, set up by Jacob Rice’s leadoff bunt single and two-base throwing error on pitcher Nate Griep (3-4).

In the sixth, Johnson extended West Virginia’s cushion to 3-0, tripling to right field after singles by Ryan McBroom and Rice. When catcher Cam O’Brien followed with a double off the right-field wall, that ended the day for Griep, who allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits.

The Mountaineers tacked on another run in the eighth thanks to Bobby Boyd’s two-out double and Billy Fleming’s RBI single against reliever Jared Moore.

Though it wasn’t a save situation, Sean Carley closed the game by striking out four in two hitless innings.

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Comments

  • Dave

    Bring on the Longhorns.

  • WVU FAN

    Great stuff, these kids are playing together like a team / or well oiled machine and that is a great reflection on these young men. Great Job Coach!

    Let's GOOOOOOO!!! Mountaineeeeeers!!!!!

  • David Kennedy

    Nobody complained that yesterdays game took a long time...LOL
    Ross Vance makes it look so easy...love his scouting report. (not much there)
    Keep him pitching like that and we will get more time for interviews...
    The coaching has found the talent... great team...and a good bench too.

  • Joe

    Just follow the country roads.....they'll take you home!

  • WVcoal

    Shane and Kim,
    Good morning. I know that you will love your trip to WV. One of the best things about our state and the thing that is most remarkable is how friendly the people of WV are -- especially to guests.
    Have a happy stay!

  • DP

    Shane and Kim-How stupid of me for not adding that MOST IMPORTANTLY it will be great for you two and Ross to spend some time together again! Enjoy your time in WV!!!

  • DP

    Shane and Kim-I also agree with Rick55! I don't know if you've been to WV before, but if not, you will enjoy the beauty of our state and the welcome mat will be out for both of you! Hopefully the weather cooperates!

    Your Son sounds like a class act and he's sure been a wonderful addition for WV! Let's goooooooooooooMountaineers!!!!!

  • Ollie

    Thanks everyone for not giving up on me.

    • An actual athlete

      Your welcome haha. Most of these people are contrians or herd fans that blame you for anything they don't like.

  • Rick55

    Shane and Kim
    You will be welcome with open arms.
    I don't know Ross personally, but Coach Mazey only has fine young men on this team and he sounded like such a fine young man in his interview today.

  • THANKS OLLIE!

    Nuff said.

  • ShaneVance18

    Kim and I will be coming up from Texas to watch WVU saw'em off the longhorns. WVU keep rolling.

  • Dave

    Congratulations team on the sweep against a good team like K-State. Can't wait for next weekend and the match-up with Texas. Is Oliver Luck a genius or what ? What a great hire in Coach Mazey. Thanks Ollie.

  • Rick55

    Take last year's team, which finished at 13-11 and tied for 3rd in conference play, add the carry-overs' improvement, then throw in Cramer, O'Brien, Johnson, Vance, and Carley, and you've got a potent brew. But it will be a challenge for this team to exceed the 2013
    team's success in conference play. We set a high bar for ourselves.

    Congratulations to the team on the sweep, and to the fans in Morgantown. I'm sure the bus ride to Charleston is long but I think it will be well worth it. Exciting for the fans down here for sure.

  • Aaron

    It was most definitely the culmination of a great weekend of Mountaineer pitching. If that rotation can continue to pitch that well, with Carley coming in at the end of games, this team will go a long play it's way into June.

    After I watch this team in Charleston on Wednesday, I do believe I will make my way to Motown for at least 2 this weekend. It should be a great series in which the Mountaineers can trade Texas places in the standings.