GRANVILLE, W.Va. – West Virginia closed out its 2019 home schedule with a 13-2 win over George Washington at Mon County Ballpark on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Or maybe it didn’t.
As the Mountaineers (34-18) gear up for the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City this week, they will go with a possibility of returning to host a regional for the first time in 64 years. The top 16 teams as determined by the NCAA selection committee are named regional hosts, and West Virginia entered Saturday with the No. 16 RPI in the country.
“It would be amazing to be able to host a regional or maybe even a super regional,” said senior catcher Ivan Gonzalez. “To get all the fans back out here for something like that? That would be absolutely incredible.”
The Mountaineers can only control what happens on the field. But if Saturday was the end of senior Darius Hill’s home career at West Virginia, he certainly went out in style.
Hill was a perfect 4-for-4, finishing just a triple short of hitting for the cycle. His penultimate at-bat was a two-run homer into the Mountaineer bullpen, just a few feet from where he patrolled as West Virginia’s right fielder for four years.
“That was pretty special,” Hill said. “Maybe the last time we play on this field. I’ve been here four years, grinding every day. What better ending could you have wanted?”
His final hit was like so many others before it – a double. It was Hill’s second two-bagger of the game and the program-leading 76th of his career. Hill opened the series by breaking Jedd Gyorko’s career doubles record on Thursday night.
Hill’s last hit came off the bat sharply enough to potentially threaten for three bases, but George Washington center fielder Cade Fergus got a good enough jump to eliminate that scenario.
“I knew what was at stake,” Hill said of his eighth inning at-bat. “But when I saw the center fielder cut it off, I was like ‘Eh, shut it down.’”
Fellow senior Andrew Zitel got in on the farewell fun with his third home run of the season, a towering eighth-inning solo shot over the left field fence. Zitel, Hill and Gonzalez were pulled to a standing ovation in the top of the ninth inning.
“For the seniors to go out the way they went out,” Mazey said, “I don’t think I could have scripted it any better.”
Regardless of where they’ll play in the postseason, the Mountaineers know they’re on the brink of just their second NCAA appearance in the 21st century. With Nick Snyder and Alek Manoah pegged as the top two starting pitchers for the Big 12 tournament, Randy Mazey made sure his other two starters saw action against the Colonials.
Kade Stowd (5-5) went four innings as the starter, and lefty Jackson Wolf pitched two tune-up innings after his scheduled Friday night game was cancelled due to expected thunderstorms.
Strowd allowed a two-run homer among four hits, but did not walk any batters. Control has sometimes plagued Strowd, who issued a Big 12-leading 50 walks in his first 71 2/3 innings this season. He’ll make WVU’s third start in the Big 12 tourney provided the Mountaineers are not eliminated.
“That’s what we had to address with him in the middle of the year – get back in the strike zone and challenge people,” Mazey said. “When you do that, you’ll give up an occasional homer. But you’ll limit damage, which is what he’s been doing.”
Wolf, who would be in line to potentially start in the Big 12 championship game, allowed no runs on a pair of Colonial hits.