MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Between reviews, hit batsmen, controversy and momentum changes, Wednesday’s contest between West Virginia and Hofstra at Wagener Field at Monongalia County Ballpark had a little bit, and maybe even a lot, of just about everything.
Ultimately, freshman Sam White’s ability to rise to the occasion sent the Mountaineers to a 6-5 victory in 10 innings, allowing them to even a two-game set with the Pride.
Appearing in the 19th game of his college career, White singled on a 1-2 offering from Hofstra pitcher Mark Faello in the home half of the 10th, allowing Caleb McNeely to score from second base for the winning run.
“We all play baseball because we love to compete,” White said. “Who doesn’t want to be up in that situation? I just wanted to do it for the guys.”
Moments earlier, McNeely doubled to extend the inning after Faello retired the first two batters of the frame.
Despite connecting for a two-run single in the first to give West Virginia (16-5) the early advantage, White wasn’t in the best of moods when he stepped into the batter’s box in the 10th.
To start extra innings, Hofstra (7-13) leadoff batter Dylan Palmer grounded out to second. During the putout, Palmer made contact with White, who was playing first base. Words were exchanged, and while nothing else came of the play, it was reviewed to determine whether or not Palmer’s contact with White was intentional, according to WVU manager Randy Mazey.
“I think Sam got a little perturbed when they kicked him at first base. That’s the last thing you want to do sometimes,” Mazey said. “Sam hasn’t been swinging it all that great lately, but you get a guy and give him some motivation, that’s a pretty dangerous thing.”
While White couldn’t say for sure what happened on the play, the reaction it drew from his teammates was enough to provide a spark.
“I haven’t seen the play. I don’t really know what happened. The guys on the field reacted like something bad happened,” White said. “I got hit in the back of my knee. I think he just kind of dragged his foot and hit me in the knee. Don’t know if it was on purpose or accidental, but I got hit in the back of the knee.”
FINAL: West Virginia 6, Hofstra 5, 10 innings
Sam White walk-off single plates Caleb McNeely for the winning run.
Mountaineers improve to 16-5. Pride fall to 7-13. pic.twitter.com/XQNYwUwS1y
— Greg Carey (@gcarey938) March 22, 2023
It was an emotional midweek matchup in large part because the Mountaineers were hit by a pitch eight times — a new single-game program mark.
That included separate instances in the home half of the first when Pride starting pitcher Sean Hamilton drilled both Dayne Leonard and Landon Wallace.
“If you know anything about baseball, you know they didn’t do it on purpose, but if our guys think they did and that’s what motivates them to attack the baseball, then so be it,” Mazey said. “But they weren’t throwing at us by any means. That’s a game we really had to grind out and win, and we did it.”
One night after stopping the Mountaineers’ win streak at nine, Hofstra had its sights set on a two-game sweep.
The Pride used Palmer’s two-run single in the third to get even, before WVU regained its advantage in the fourth courtesy of Logan Sauve’s RBI single.
With a prime opportunity to build a multi-run advantage, however, the Mountaineers failed to score again despite having the bases loaded with no outs that inning. Braden Barry hit a fly ball to right that resulted in a double play when Evan Smith was thrown out at the plate trying to tag up from third base and J.J. Wetherholt bounced out to second to end the fourth.
“We need to get more in attack mode,” Mazey said. “We’re playing a little bit of defense at the plate. We did the same thing today — scored two in the first and we scored so many runs last week on spring break, I think the guys just assume because we did that last week, we’re going to do it again. You can’t do that. You have to grind out every at bat and toward the end of the game, we did that.”
WVU starting pitcher Gavin Van Kemper was removed in the middle of an at bat during the fifth, and Hofstra’s Ryan Morash greeted reliever Carson Estridge with a single to right that scored Michael Florides for a 3-all tie.
Sauve scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to give WVU a 4-3 lead, though it again left the bases loaded.
It looked as though that could prove especially costly when Kevin Bruggeman belted a two-run home run to left field with two outs in the eighth, allowing Hofstra to lead for the first time at 5-4.
Yet when the Mountaineers came to the plate later that inning, they got a one-out single from Wetherholt, who stole second and took third on a throwing error. After Leonard drew a base-on-balls, McNeely laid down a bunt on a safety squeeze and Wetherholt scored to even the contest at 5.
Pride reliever John Mikolaicyk struck out White and Wallace in consecutive at bats to keep the game tied through eight innings, the latter of which came on a play where Wallace was hit by a pitch but ruled to have turned into it, leading to a strike call.
“It was just one of those games where a lot of craziness happened,” Mazey said. “Yesterday, we played the whole game with no challenges. The first time this year we’ve played without it and today we had like 27.”
The Mountaineers put two runners on with one out in the ninth, but Barry hit into a double play that ensured extras.
After Palmer made the first out of the 10th, another quirky play occurred when Morash popped up a foul ball toward third base. McNeely dashed into foul territory, left his feet and came up with the catch, though he landed in the area of Hofstra’s dugout and out of play. McNeely was originally ruled to be out play when he made the catch, resulting in a foul ball. However, upon one of many reviews throughout the contest, the call was overturned and ruled a catch for the second out.
“He was in the field of play when he left his feet, so as long as he catches it before he lands and touched down in foul territory out of play, then it’s a good catch,” Mazey said.
Keegan Allen induced a line drive out from Will Kennedy to send the game to the home half of the 10th.
Allen, an Oklahoma transfer, retired all six batters he faced over two innings to record the win.
“Just tried to throw strikes and get as many people out as I can,” Allen said. “Really can’t control it once it comes out of the hands, so all I try to do is throw strikes and help my team win.
“Super weird with all the reviews and everything, but it was a high-energy game. We haven’t had too many of those, so I was glad to be a part of it.”
White finished 3-for-6 and drove in three runs. Sauve was 2-for-2 and drew a pair of walks.
“A lot of the guys were getting hit by off speed, but it got a little annoying. We just tried to keep a level head through it and do whatever we could,” White said.
Van Kempen logged 4 2/3 innings in the start and allowed three runs. He issued four walks, allowed two hits and struck out one.
Estridge struck out three over two scoreless innings as the first of three WVU relievers utilized.
Faello suffered his fourth loss this season.
“When you lose a game you probably shouldn’t lose, there’s a little bit of a vibe that’s off,” White said. “Winning this game is huge and it’s a lot of confidence for us.”