Black Bears edge Williamsport on walk-off walk, 3-2

GRANVILLE — Mike Gretler was a hit July 5.

More to the point, the West Virginia Black Bears third baseman got hit by a pitch, something he has become accustomed to this baseball season.

He led Oregon State — the 2018 national champions — by getting hit 12 times by a pitch this season.

“I kind of saw it at the end of the year that I had been hit by a lot of pitches,” said Gretler, who was playing in just his second professional game. “I’m not sure what it is. I don’t think I stand too far inside. Maybe it’s just me getting a little lucky.”

Or unlucky, perhaps..

Gretler was hit by Williamsport pitcher Austin Ross with the bases loaded Thursday, which scored teammate Brett Kinneman to tie the game, 2-2.

Connor Kaiser’s two-out walk-off walk in the bottom of the ninth won it for the Black Bears, 3-2, in front of 1,319 fans inside Monongalia County Ballpark.

It was the Crosscutters’ (7-12) seventh straight loss.

Getting plunked, though, is just a piece of Gretler’s baseball tale.

A two-year starter for the Beavers, he helped Oregon State reach the No. 1 ranking in 2017, and then win the College World Series a season later.

“It was unbelievable. I wish every player could experience that,” Gretler said. “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Oregon State knocked off Arkansas for the national title and it came only after the Razorbacks failed to catch a foul ball in play in the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead that would have clinched the series for the Razorbacks.

Instead, Oregon State came back to win the game, 5-3, in the ninth inning, then won the title in game 3, with a 5-0 victory.

“It was very surreal,” Gretler said. “You have to give credit to Cadyn (Grenier), because he moved on to the next pitch and drove in the tying run. For Trevor (Lamach) to step up and hit the home run put the exclamation point on it. The next day, we had all the confidence in the world.”

Gretler’s part in the memorable season came after passing up the Major League Baseball draft, not once, but two times in order to remain with the Beavers.

Out of Bonney Lake High School, in Seattle, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 39th round in 2014, but opted for college.

The Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the 39th round in last year’s draft, but again, Gretler opted to return to school, for his senior season.

“In high school, I knew I wanted to go to college. I thought it would help my development,” Gretler said. “I thought I could chip away at that college degree. It was kind of cool to be drafted by the Red Sox.

“Last year, we had such a close-knit bunch of guys. We all wanted to come back and play for a national title. I was happy for the way it worked out.”

He batted .305 as a senior with seven home runs and 51 RBIs for the Beavers this season.

His stock improved so much that the Pirates took him again, in 2018, this time in the 10th round.

“It’s a tough game,” Gretler said. “For me, I think it was just a matter of sticking with the process. You had to know that the work you put in today, you may not see the benefits of it until later on, but you still had to believe in it.”

The Black Bears (9-11) had 11 hits and left 13 guys on base. Reliever Juan Henriquez picked up his first win by pitching scoreless eighth and ninth innings.

West Virginia’s bullpen allowed just one hit over 6 2/3 innings.

The offense came mostly from the bases-loaded hit by pitch and the bases-loaded walk.

Unconventional, but the Black Bears will take it.

“We just need to continue to fight like we did,” Black Bears manager Kieran Mattison said. “They competed just like we did. It’s not like they pitched a bad game. Just because we had 11 hits doesn’t mean we’re going to score 11 runs. That’s baseball. Sometimes you may only get eight hits, but score 15 runs. As long as our guys keep competing, you don’t tell them to do anything differently.”

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