GRANVILLE — The chances of completing a three-game sweep by the West Virginia Black Bears were shut down and struck out July 6.
Three Williamsport, Pa., pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts as the Crosscutters ended their seven-game losing streak with an 8-4 victory against the Black Bears, in front of 2,143 fans inside Monongalia County Ballpark.
A night after pulling off their first walk-off win of the season, the Black Bears (9-12) mostly walked back to the bench after another strike three.
“It happens,” West Virginia manager Kieran Mattison said. “Go check a big-league box score tonight, somebody got punched out 10 or more times. We’ve been on the other side. It happens. Guys aren’t up there trying to strike out. We’ve just got to make adjustments where we can.”
The 16 strikeouts tied a season high for West Virginia, which also struck out 16 times a team on June 28, in a 5-2 loss against Mahoning Valley.
Williamsport starter Francisco Morales struck out 10 over five innings and relievers Jose Jimenez and Keylan Kilgore combined for six more.
The Black Bears saw their modest two-game winning streak come to an end. They committed four errors in the game.
The high number of strikeouts is the trend across baseball, from college to the pros. Major league teams average nearly nine strikeouts per game this season.
Mattison said it is simply the way the game has evolved with more pitchers throwing 95 mph and above.
“Everybody is throwing hard now,” Mattison said. “Guys are throwing 86 miles per hour breaking balls now. Back in the day, it was 86 on fastballs. You don’t see 86, 87, 88 anymore on fastballs. Throwing 95 has become the new norm.
“The game has evolved. If you’re getting more spin on a harder breaking ball, that thing is going to have a sharper break. The last time I checked, Cy Young and all of those guys struck out a lot of guys, too. It’s still the same game, but you’re seeing more of those harder-throwing guys now.”
Black Bears third baseman Mike Gretler went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs. He tripled home two in the third, when West Virginia came back to tie the game, 3-3.
“Getting a little more comfortable out there,” Gretler said.
Williamsport took the lead for good in the sixth, when Ben Arlinski came up with an RBI single and Matt Kroon added an RBI double against Black Bears starter Alexander Manasa, who fell to 1-3 on the season. He allowed six runs over 5 2/3 innings.
“It was just one of those things where he lost a little focus in the sixth inning,” Mattison said. “He had three quick innings before that. It was just one of those things that will be a lesson for him to learn. You just have to execute better pitchers in that situation.”
The Black Bears will host a three-game series against Auburn, N.Y., starting at 7 p.m. today, at Mon County Ballpark. Auburn is 3-0 against West Virginia this season.
Former Arkansas catcher Grant Koch was added to the Black Bears’ roster Friday. Koch was a fifth-round selection in the 2018 draft. He batted .245 with seven home runs and
35 RBIs with the Razorbacks this season.