— By Joe Smith
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — You don’t always have to play your best game to win — sometimes, you just need to be a step better than your opponent.
This was the case for Morgantown baseball on Thursday; normally one of the most proficient hitting teams in the state, the Mohigans went just 11-28 at the plate as they hosted rival University at Mylan Park. In the end, the effort proved to be enough as they downed the Hawks 9-4 to complete a regular season sweep of their rivals.
“We did not swing the bats aggressively enough, and we’re not attacking the ball at the plate like we have been. We’re going to have to pick it up, because the last couple games we’ve been kind of lax,” Morgantown coach Mark McCarty said.
“It’s not that we played horribly, but we’re just not swinging the bats aggressively. The only thing I was unhappy with was that we weren’t swinging at the ball like we have been. But we’re always glad to beat University, just like they’re always glad to beat us.”
Following a scoreless first inning, Morgantown (15-2) quickly opened a sizeable gap between themselves and the Hawks (5-10), jumping out to a 9-0 lead through three innings. The Hawks would garner momentum late, scoring four unanswered runs to close the game, but the effort was too little too late for the visitors.
“We had a couple kids who had an opportunity and made the most of us, and they showed us, as coaches, that in those situations they can perform. Then what happens is you get a couple walks here and a couple hits here, and you’re back in the game,” UHS coach Buck Riggleman said.
“You have to be competitive, and if you get down early, you have to fight back. That’s what we as coaches have been trying to instill in them. Today, hopefully they can take what happened in the latter stages of the game and realize that when life gets tough, they have to stick their chest out and work harder.”
The win is the 10th straight for Morgantown, extending its win streak to double digits — its last loss came in the opener of a March 30 doubleheader against Hedgesville. The start has turned many heads around the region, but McCarty isn’t looking to make too much out of the team’s early season play.
“Starts are starts, finishes are what counts. I’m taking nothing from this; obviously, we’ve won 15 games and only lost two, but what happens at the end is what’s important,” he said. “They’ll be OK. This is a good, solid, strong, smart baseball team, and just because they don’t swing the bats as well a couple days in a row doesn’t mean they won’t get back on it. It’s hard to hit the ball as well as we have every game, and I’m certainly not cutting them down or pushing any panic buttons.”
Morgantown senior Devon Neal said the attitude among the team at the moment is take things one game at a time and continue to focus on what brought it so far in the first place — its skill at the plate.
“We have a lot of momentum going into this last stretch of games and we’re just trying to stay focused and keep a positive attitude in the dugout,” he said. “We need to stay hitting the ball — that’s what we do best. I wouldn’t say we’re hitting too bad. I say we’ll be fine, and I’d put us up against anybody at the plate.”
(Photo gallery by William Wotring/The Dominion Post)