WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The bats came alive and WVU stayed alive with an 8-5 win against Maryland in an elimination game June 4, in a NCAA Regional at Wake Forest’s Couch Ballpark.
After falling behind 4-0 against the Terrapins, going hitless in the first three innings and scoreless for a 13-inning stretch dating back to Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Wake Forest, the Mountaineers offense struck late by scoring all eight of their runs from the sixth inning on to force a rematch with the Deacons.
It was the second win in three nights against Maryland for West Virginia, which beat the Terrapins, 9-1, on June 2.
Braden Zarbnisky and Jimmy Galusky had two RBIs apiece to spark to comeback win, and relief pitcher Jackson Sigman picked up the win after shutting down the Terrapins’ offense after entering the game in the fifth inning trailing 4-0.
“My job is pretty stressful,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “And I can’t say enough about our kids. Down 4-0 and we went eight innings without scoring yesterday and the first five today … it’s hard to keep the Mountaineers from scoring for 13 straight innings. You knew in this park it was just a matter of time before something happens.”
Trailing 4-3 in the eighth inning, WVU (35-25) scored four runs to grab the lead for good.
Jackson Cramer’s RBI double tied the game at 4-4 and then he scored the go-ahead run on Zarbnisky’s RBI single. Galusky made it 6-4 with his second RBI single to score Kyle Davis, and Zarbnisky made it 7-4 after scoring when Kyle Davis drew a bases-loaded walk. The Mountaineers added an insurance run in the ninth after Cramer doubled with one out and scored on Zarbnisky’s fielder’s choice.
WVU started chipping away in the sixth inning after a one-out double by Darius Hill and an RBI groundout by Cole Austin trimmed the deficit to 4-1.
The Mountaineers tacked on two more runs in the seventh after an RBI groundout by Galusky scored Kyle Davis and a Kevin Brophy single down the leftfield line to score Zarbnisky.
With runners on second and third and one out, catcher Ivan Gonzalez attempted a squeeze on a 2-1 count but missed the outside pitch, and pinch-runner T.J. Lake was tagged out in a rundown between third and home. Gonzalez flew out to centerfield to end the inning with the Mountaineers trailing 4-3.
“Pudge has been in that situation before and executed it perfectly,” Mazey said. “That pitcher picked an awful time to throw a pitch in the other batter’s box and we ran into an out that we shouldn’t have run into there.”
It wasn’t the first squandered scoring opportunity for the Mountaineers, who had the bases loaded with no outs in the fourth inning and failed to score.
Maryland starter Tyler Blohm was chased in the top of the fourth after giving up two walks and a single to start the inning.
John Murphy came in to relieve Blomh and struck out the side, ending the threat. That was the turning point, according to Mozey.
“We knew when we left the bases loaded with nobody out in the fourth and didn’t score, I thought things weren’t going our way,” Mozey said. “It’s hard to grab momentum on defense. When (Murphy) went out and struck out the three guys in the middle of our order with the bases loaded and nobody out, they ran off the field yelling, excited, and screaming. Then Kade Strowd went right out there when they had momentum and threw up a zero and just kept us in the game. Usually when you run off the field with defensive momentum, it translates to home plate and you score a couple of runs.”
Strowd left the game after giving up a two-run home run in the fifth and trailing 4-0, but that’s when Sigman took over.
Sigman (6-4) retired seven of the first eight hitters he faced and surrendered just one run and four hits over 4.2 innings and 67 pitches. He struck out the final two batters of the game, including Brandon Gum looking to end the game. The only run was a leadoff home run in the top of the ninth by Nick Dunn that cut Maryland’s deficit to 8-5.
Mazey went out to the mound to check on Sigman after he allowed a single and a double in the inning and had runners on first and third with one out.
“He’s been so good for us all year, he’s a senior, and he’s not going to get drafted,” Mazey said. “He’s got a master’s degree in finance and his baseball career is probably coming to an end. So, to not let that kid pitch anymore if he wants to pitch…I’m not going to make that decision. He deserved to finish it if he wanted to.”