JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Chase Illig doubled to start a four-run uprising in the fourth inning and later homered as No. 22 West Virginia opened the college baseball season with a 5-4 win at Jacksonville.
“Chase played great,” said coach Randy Mazey, whose team is coming off the program’s first NCAA regional berth since 1996.
While the catcher led a 10-hit attack, West Virginia’s bullpen delivered by stranding the tying runner on base in each of the final four innings.
Shane Ennis (1-0) earned the win with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless middle relief and Sam Kessler got the final two outs for his second career save. In between came a 28-pitch stint by Conner Dotson, who returned to the mound 10 months after suffering a broken arm during pregame warmups.
The Mountaineers relievers combined for 4 2/3 innings of three-hit ball after starter BJ Myers left in the fifth having thrown 83 pitches.
“With men on base they made quality pitches when they needed to,” Mazey said.
Chris Gau (0-1) took the loss for the Dolphins, lasting five innings and allowing six hits, five runs, three earned.
He held down WVU until the fourth, when Illig doubled, Alek Manoah reached on an error and Jimmy Galusky grounded an RBI single to left. A bases-loaded walk to Brandon White made it 2-0 before Kyle Gray and Ivan Gonzalez tacked on sac-flies.
Jacksonville responded by roughing up Myers in the bottom of the fourth to pull within 4-3, but Illig homered to right-center in the fifth.
Cody Wood struck out Dolphins pinch-hitter Zack Smith to end the seventh inning with a runner on second base.
Dotson fanned two batters in the eighth to strand a runner in scoring position, and Kessler closed out the game after inheriting a runner at first.
“I think early guys are just pushing a little to get it done in the big spot,” said Jacksonville coach Chris Hayes. “A little uncharacteristic in their at-bats late.”
The three-game series continues Saturday.