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Mountaineers split doubleheader with Central Michigan, pick up first win of season at Mon County Ballpark

GRANVILLE — It took extra innings in the nightcap of a doubleheader a week after the scheduled home opener for West Virginia to finally pick up its first win at Mon County Ballpark in 2021, but freshman shortstop Mikey Kluska made it worth the wait when he skyrocketed a two-run homer over the left-field wall and made the Mountaineers 8-7 winners over Central Michigan on Saturday evening.

“He’s just a worker,” said assistant coach Steve Sabins, who was filling as Randy Mazey tended to a family emergency this weekend. “He’s been a worker since we started recruiting him his sophomore year. 

“He’s taken it and ran with it. He’s never afraid. Good things happen to good kids and people that work, and that’s certainly an example of that.”

Kluska’s 10th-inning blast helped the Mountaineers avert a sweep in their first series back following a one-week layoff due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program.

“As far as the team goes, we’ve had a lot of adversity, but I think we’ve handled it well,” Kluska said. “I think we’re going to be ok.”

Kluska is a prime example. 

The freshman from White Sulphur Springs was expected to help the Mountaineers off the bench or possibly even redshirt this year, but a season-ending foot injury to Tevin Tucker forced him into the starting lineup.

“Obviously it’s terrible what happened to Tevin,” Kluska said. “But I’m just trying to help our team win the best I can.”

West Virginia conceded a run to the Chippewas in the top of the 10th, but Victor Scott led off the bottom of the inning by drawing a full-count walk to set the stage for Kluska’s walkoff.

The Mountaineers (5-5) were in position to win thanks to some quality work out of the bullpen from freshman Daniel Ouderkirk. 

Ouderkirk settled things down after starter Skyler Gonzalez allowed 5 runs in 3 innings, giving up a run and striking out 5 in his 3 innings of relief.

“He came out with energy,” Sabins said. “That changed the momentum for us.”

Another momentum-changer was the first career homer — and hit — for aptly named freshman catcher McGwire Holbrook. 

After Central Michigan scored a pair of runs in the top of the second to extend its lead to 5-1, Holbrook’s solo shot in the bottom of the inning got the WVU offense on track.

“When he hit that homer, that showed we would not quit,” Sabins said.

Central Michigan 12, West Virginia 4

The Chippewas (5-5) used some very crooked numbers — 5 runs in the fourth and 7 in the seventh — to blow out the Mountaineers in the opener.

It was more than enough run support for starter Andrew Taylor, who struck out 11 and allowed three hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Central Michigan was an almost unbelievable 10-for-18 with two outs in the game as well as a perfect 5-for-5 with runners at third base with less than two outs.