Illig’s hit gives WVU walk-off win over Penn State

PITTSBURGH — Sophomore designated hitter Chase Illig hit a game-winning single in the 10th inning as the WVU baseball team walked off against Penn State, 3-2, on April 10, at PNC Park.

Playing at the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second consecutive season, the Mountaineers (14-15) improved to 2-0 at the ballpark.

Illig also was responsible for the game-winning hit in last year’s 4-2 win, which came in the fourth inning.

Tuesday’s 10th-inning hit came after the Nittany Lions (7-19) tied the game in the ninth inning with two outs. Illig’s heroics, with two outs, scored junior right fielder Darius Hill.

“Walk-offs are the most exciting part of baseball,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “So, that’s good for us to experience that and for the fans to see it. We just have to find a way to start playing better.”

WVU scored two runs in the first before PSU tallied one in the third and another in the ninth to make it 2-2.

In the 10th, sophomore right-handed reliever Sam Kessler got a groundout to strand the bases loaded in the top half.

Hill led off the bottom half with a single and was bunted to second. An intentional walk and pop-up followed, to set up Illig.

“You can kind of tell when he’s standing up there, the way he takes pitches,” Mazey said of Illig. “He was pretty calm up there. He got a good one to hit and he hit it just foul. They were playing super shallow, trying to throw a runner out at the plate. He just managed to find a gap, but when you do that a couple times, the last two games he’s played, he’s gotten really big hits late in the game. You’ll start getting a little confidence in that situation and that’ll carry forward.”

Kessler (2-0) earned the win. In 1 1/3 innings, he allowed no runs on three hits with three strikeouts and a walk.

Freshman left-handed starter Jackson Wolf pitched well in his second career start. In five innings, he allowed one run on three hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Hill led the Mountaineers with two hits, had an RBI and scored two runs.

Wolf got a double play and a strikeout to end the first inning after the first two batters of the game reached. The Mountaineers tallied a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Junior left fielder Braden Zarbnisky led off the inning with a walk and advanced to third on a single. He scored when Hill reached on a fielder’s choice to put WVU ahead, 1-0. Two batters later, with Hill on second, junior third baseman Andrew Zitel singled to right, scoring Hill.

Penn State cut into the lead with a two-out solo home run in the third.

WVU returns home to face Pitt, at 6 p.m. today, in a makeup game at Monongalia County Ballpark.

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