GRANVILLE — It wasn’t the prettiest first inning for WVU pitcher BJ Myers against Kansas State on Friday, April 20, at Monongalia County Ballpark.
It may have been tough because it’s was the first first inning Myers has pitched in over a month. He moved from the rotation, to the bullpen and back to the rotation out of necessity.
Head coach Randy Mazey knows what Myers has been through isn’t easy, but it was a shaky start for the senior righty pitcher.
Myers and first baseman Marques Inman didn’t communicate on a grounder in front of first, allowing the runner to reach.
Then Myers threw the ball away on a pick-off move to allow the first run of the game to score by the Wildcats. Another run scored on a base hit to left, and Myers and the Mountaineers were down 2-0 before being able to swing the bat.
It was an unusual start for one of WVU’s top pitchers. Myers, a senior, gave up no earned runs in this last four appearances out of the bullpen prior to Friday (11 2/3 innings).
However, the problem wasn’t getting hit hard for Myers, it was walks. With a tight strike zone from home plate umpire Mike Morris, Myers struggled with command early on, walking a season-high five batters after walking just eight all season prior.
After early struggles and falling behind early, though, Myers retired 10-straight hitters in six innings on the mound, helping the WVU offense come back to take an 8-5 win.
“When they got those two runs in the third inning, I was a little frustrated because I thought I made a good pitch but the hitter put a good swing on it,” Myers said. “It definitely put a fire in me and I tried to bear down a little more after that.”
While Myers earned a no-decision, settling down and possibly getting back on a weekend rotation was crucial for the Mountaineers (18-17, 3-7 Big 12).
Making that significant of a change going for starter, to reliever, back to starter this late into a career is something Mazey appreciates Myers having the attitude to do.
“Kudos to BJ for, No. 1, buying into the change,” Mazey said. “We talk about leadership all the time, and without saying a word, that’s leadership — going out there and making an adjustment for the benefit of the team.”
Left-fielder Braden Zarbnisky scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 8th inning, scoring on a wild pitch by KSU (16-22, 2-10) pitcher Alex Belch. A batter later, right-fielder Darius Hill socked an inside fastball for a two-run home run.
“That’s Zarb — when he’s playing like that, we’re winning,” Mazey said. “Darius is another guy, with the game on the line and a one-run game, comes up big and hits a two-run homer. That’s what veteran players are supposed to do.”
WVU first baseman Marques Inman went 4-for-5 at the plate, the first four-hit game of his career.
Sophomore pitcher Sam Kessler earned the win with a scoreless 1 1/3 innings to end the game.
The series continues, at 4 p.m. today.