GRANVILLE — Maybe no team in baseball is looking forward to summer coming to an end like the West Virginia Black Bears.
Bring on September, because the month of August has been just plain awful for the Bears.
They lost a 2-0 lead and then lost their seventh consecutive game with a 3-2 defeat against State College, Pa., on Aug. 30, in front of 2,096 fans inside Monongalia County Ballpark.
“I’m not sure how it’s all happening,” said West Virginia starter Ike Schlabach, who pitched six scoreless only to watch the Spikes (37-31) score a run each in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to win it. “Maybe it’s because guys are a little tired or are looking to the end of the season already. You can’t do that at this level. You have to stay focused.”
Sitting on top of the Pinckney Division standings with a three-game cushion less than three weeks ago, West Virginia (35-33) is now 4 1/2 games out of first place with eight games remaining.
State College used this three-game sweep to catch and pass the Bears in the standings.
Now, it is the Spikes in contention to catch division leader Mahoning Valley, trailing by 2 1/2 games. Mahoning Valley lost Wednesday for the second straight game, against Batavia, 5-1.
With today’s 7:05 road game, at Auburn, marking the final game of August, West Virginia has posted an 11-17 record for the month, with plenty of blame to go around for the losses.
West Virginia manager Brian Esposito was not available following the game, but what is there to say, exactly, at this point?
This is a letdown that has turned into a mesmerizing meltdown.
All the yelling and finger-pointing in the world may not help at this point.
The Black Bears’ offense has pushed across six or more runs in just eight games this month, while the once-steady bullpen has faltered.
“Tonight, I felt like we had things going pretty well early,” Schlabach said. “Then it just came apart.”
Schlabach handed a 2-0 lead — built from a run scored on a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded in the first and Robbie Glendinning scoring in the fourth, after a State College fielding error — to the Black Bears’ bullpen.
But Hector Garcia gave up a double and a run-scoring single with two outs in the seventh, then gave up a lead-off double in the eighth, to Edwin Figuera, who scored on Bryce Denton’s two-out single to tie the game.
That was all for Garcia.
Against reliever Blake Weiman, State College’s J.D. Crowe reached on a tough error charged to West Virginia third baseman Dylan Busby with one out in the ninth.
Light-hitting catcher Joe Gomez, who came into the game batting .053, doubled to the gap in right-center to score Crowe for the go-ahead run.
West Virginia got two runners on in the ninth, on a walk and a hit-by-pitch, but Jared Oliva and Raul Siri struck out to end the game.
The Black Bears were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and did not get a hit over the final five innings.
State College reliever Alex Fagalde (1-1) picked up the win by pitching
2 1/3 scoreless innings. He retired the first seven batters he faced.
Weiman (3-3) took the loss for the Bears.