MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After Furman rallied in the ninth inning to win Sunday’s opener 8-6 and clinch the weekend series, West Virginia coach Randy Mazey benched his veterans.
A freshman-heavy lineup recovered to salvage the second game 8-5, helping the Mountaineers avoid a sweep and brightening Mazey’s mood, at least marginally.
“It was a bad effort in Game 1,” he said. “But I had a lot of fun watching Team 2 play. Guys were hustling and energetic and competing.
“We had nine freshmen on the field, and we only had nine because we couldn’t find another one. If we’d have had 10, I would’ve put 10 in there. It was a decision to get those hungry guys in the lineup.”
West Virginia (17-13) hoped to beef up its record against the mid-major Paladins (13-18), a middle-of-the pack team from the Southern Conference. By dropping two of three in the series, however, WVU slipped to 82nd in the RPI with seven losses against teams ranked 160 or worse.
“Other than my wedding date, my anniversary, and the first day you’re allowed to call recruits, (RPI) is the most thing in our lives around here,” Mazey said. “Furman comes in here, in the 200s I think, … and they beat you twice at home, so we’re going to take a big hit for this.”
The ninth-inning meltdown in the first game saw Furman score four times on two hits. Runs scored on a wild pitch by closer Blake Smith (2-1), a passed ball by Ivan Vera, and a first-and-third rundown throw gone awry by reliever Jackson Sigman.
Left-hander Ross Vance began the ninth with a 6-4 lead before surrendering a walk and a single. His 126th pitch was wild and moved the tying runs into scoring position.
Smith threw eight pitches, none strikes, before Mazey lost patience.
“Boy I really thought we’d be better than this right now,” Mazey said. “I thought with our home schedule and the starting pitching we had back that we’d have a really good record right now. When you have a team that underachieves, it falls back on me.”
In the finale, WVU’s freshman brigade pounded out 16 hits—three by Andrew Zitel and two from Darius Hill, Braden Zarbnisky, Kyle Gray and Vera. The only upperclassmen in the lineup, catcher Ray Guerrini, hit a solo homer.
B.J. Myers (3-3) went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on six hits.
“They earned the right to take the field against Pitt on Tuesday night,” Mazey said, “so congratulations to Team 2.”