Black Bears, Local Sports, Sports

Black Bears rally in 8th to win home opener 6-5

GRANVILLE — Heroes can come from anywhere, and the West Virginia Black Bears’ hero on Tuesday was Devin Saltiban from Hilo, Hawaii.

Saltiban, a recent high school graduate, hit a two-out, two-RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Black Bears a 6-5 victory in their 2023 home opener at Mon County Ballpark.

“I was just trying to stay simple, wasn’t trying to do too much,” Saltiban said of his game-winning hit. “Just thinking middle and I saw the ball really well and put the barrel on it.”

The hit scored Morgantown High product Aaron Jamison and Presbyterian College’s Brady Fahr to give the Black Bears (3-2) a 6-5 lead heading into the ninth inning.

“It was really cool to get to see Aaron Jamison, a local product, get everything jump started and then Salty just doing what he does best, putting the barrel to the baseball,” said first-year manager David Carpenter. “I’m just trying to give those guys opportunities to experience baseball at this level.”

Williamsport (0-5) took a 5-4 lead in the top of the sixth inning by taking advantage of some West Virginia wildness, drawing four consecutive walks and advancing on three wild pitches. Gage Gundy drew a two-out walk, stole second base, advanced to third on a wild pitch and came home on another. The next three batters each drew a walk to load the bases, but West Virginia’s Mitch Dye came in from the bullpen to get out of the jam with a ground out to shortstop.

Dye would close the game out for the hosts, earning the win while throwing 3 1/3 hitless innings allowing just one baserunner, a walk in the seventh.

“He looked really, really good, especially coming in in a bases-loaded situation like that,” Carpenter said. “A young guy who hasn’t had as much experience going into a game like that. He pitched really, really well and I’m excited to see what his future is going to look like.”

The visitors took the first lead of the game in the top of the second when Jack Oberdorf tripled off the left-field wall and was brought home by Joseph Sullivan’s sacrifice fly. Reed Chumley, who had walked, was driven in one batter later on Jacob Harper’s single for a 2-0 lead.

West Virginia responded in the bottom of the third when Saliban led off the inning with a solo home run. Nick Iannatone and Noah Fisher each walked before Logan Kohler send a ball over the wall right-center for a three-run blast that put the hosts in front 4-2.

Saltiban is committed to his home-state University of Hawaii, but he said he’s enjoying his time away from home playing in the Draft League.

“I like it out here,” Saltiban said. “It feels good being somewhere different. You can see new things and I get to experience different levels of baseball out on the mainland.”

Saltiban also said the Black Bears’ home crowd was the largest he’s ever played in front of.

“Back at home you don’t have that many people watching you,” he said. “It’s exciting that I see that many people.”

Williamsport tied the game in the top of the fourth as Harper hit a two-run home run that scored Chumley, who had walked again. That spelled the end for West Virginia starter Evan Brandt, who gave up four runs in four innings on three hits and two walks. Degges pitched a clean top of the fifth before the bout of wildness in the sixth that allowed the Crosscutters to take the lead.

West Virginia had stagnated on offense with just four baserunners after Kohler’s home run but rallied in the bottom of the eighth. Ryan Grabosch led off the frame with a walk, but pinch runner Lincoln Pack was picked off first base. Jamison and Fahr each drew walks as well and two batters later, Saltiban sent them both running home to score the game-tying and winning runs.

“It shows that these guys are willing to stick with the grind and understand that there will be ups and downs throughout the game,” Carpenter said. “It was a lot of fun to see those guys really come together as a group and have a good team win.”

Game two of the three-game set between the Black Bears and Crosscutters will start at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Mon County Ballpark.

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