(Photo gallery by Teran Malone)
GRANVILLE, W.Va. — After back-to-back walk-off victories, the Mountaineers decided to take most of the drama out of the game an inning earlier on a windy Saturday afternoon at Monongalia County Ballpark. West Virginia used a four-run eighth inning and a complete game from Blaine Traxel to defeat Xavier, 7-2.
WVU (18-5) has won three consecutive games and 12 out of their last 13 games. Randy Mazey earned his 500th victory as a head coach.
“I didn’t have any idea. That’s awesome,” Mazey said. “I just told the guys that Tevin Tucker has been here for all 500. That’s cool and all but I don’t believe I have ever won a game. It is the players that win a game.”
Leading 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, JJ Wetherholt broke the game wide open with a three-run home run. It was Wetherholt’s sixth homer of the season. Wetherholt went 4-for-5 in the game.
“He ended up going with a two-seam away, which is kind of my pitch. Thankfully I was on it and put a good swing on it,” Wetherholt said.
“It is pretty obvious he is seeing the ball pretty well regardless of who they put out there. If that situation arises tomorrow, I would be surprised if they pitch to him,” Mazey said.
On the very next pitch, Braden Barry followed that up with a solo home run to extend the WVU lead to five runs.
With a one-run lead extended to five runs, Traxel stepped to the mound looking to secure his fourth complete game of the season. He pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to cap a performance that included seven strikeouts.
“He was going back out there regardless. He only threw about 110 pitches. That is like taking the day off for him,” Mazey said. “Somebody asked me about his pitch count and I said, ‘I could care less about his pitch count’. He gets better as he goes. He is a better pitcher at pitch 100 than he is a pitch one. When he pitches a game, he wants to pitch the game, which is pretty cool.”
“Something I take pride in is trying to get better as we go,” Traxel said. “The more adversity, the more runners on base and tough situations, that’s kind of where I thrive. You have to like those situations if you want to be a starting pitcher that wants to throw late in games.”
West Virginia never trailed in the game. Dayne Leonard’s RBI double in the first gave the Mountaineers a 1-0 lead. Ellis Garcia hit a solo home run in the fourth to give WVU a 2-1 lead.
The Mountaineers look to complete a series sweep Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.