GRANVILLE, W.Va. — Nick Snyder thought he had it.
The West Virginia junior left-hander was one pitch away from recording the program’s first nine-inning no-hitter since 2002, and threw the kind of pitch that often ends these things with a dog pile on the mound.
“He felt what was happening,” said Mountaineers coach Randy Mazey. “We all felt what was happening.”
Unfortunately for Snyder, Marshall leadoff hitter Erik Rodriguez was a hard man to kill for that final out. Rodriguez hit a chopper that bounced sky-high off the artificial turf about 12 feet from home plate, then took a long-arcing hop before landing oddly in the shallow infield as second baseman Tyler Doanes charged it in vain.
Snyder had both hands in the air ready to celebrate, but Rodriguez sped down the line and beat Doanes’ throw to first baseman Kevin Brophy.
“It kind of happened quickly,” Snyder said. “I kind of did a celebration before — I raised my arms — and then he was safe. I was like, ‘Dang it.'”
When you’re THISCLOSE to history pic.twitter.com/ecKrFDxvdr
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There was little time to wallow in the misery of what might have been.
The Thundering Herd (23-21) suddenly had the tying run up to the plate, and Snyder had something more valuable than a no-hitter to protect. He got Zach Inskeep to fly out to right, preserving West Virginia’s 2-0 win over its in-state rival in front of 2,310 at Mon County Ballpark.
“Before I got back on the rubber, I just told myself to stay calm,” Snyder said. “Just get strike one. Stay in the moment.”
It was still a historic night for Snyder. He somehow one-upped Mountaineers ace Alek Manoah, finishing with a season-high 16 strikeouts. Manoah has fanned 15 batters on two occasions this season.
“It makes it so easy. It saves the legs,” said appreciative WVU catcher Ivan Gonzalez. “It saves everything. The mental stress that goes on. I just sit there and frame the pitch for the guy. It’s honestly amazing.”
Snyder struck out more batters than any West Virginia pitcher since Wes Shaw punched out 16 against Fairmont State in 1989. The one-hitter was the first for the Mountaineers since Zac Cline accomplished the feat against Virginia Tech in the 2003 Big East tournament.
More important than the individual accomplishment is what Snyder’s performance might mean for the Mountaineers (27-15) a month from now. Snyder’s first collegiate complete game is further proof that West Virginia will go into the Big 12 tournament and potentially beyond with a pitching rotation that is legitimately four-deep.
“I felt good about that from Day 1,” Mazey said of WVU’s pitching depth. “In a tournament environment where you have to play four or five games, we have the advantage there. We need to hit. These 2-0 games and 3-2 games and walk-offs are fun for you to watch, but that elevates my heart rate like you wouldn’t believe. It’d be nice to have a 10-2 win somewhere.”
West Virginia got seven hits against the Thundering Herd, but was 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Both hits came with two outs, though, as Darius Hill drove home Brandon White with a single in the third and Gonzalez drove in Hill with a single in the fifth.