Baseball, Sports, WVU Sports

Mountaineers handle Canisius, 10-3, in home-opener

GRANVILLE — Randy Mazey glanced down at the box score for just a second Wednesday.

What he saw wasn’t exactly his Plan A heading into the season.

“It’s not so much about winning and losing at this part of the year,” he said after the WVU baseball team knocked off Canisius 10-3 in the debut of the new turf surface at Mon County Ballpark. “It’s about finding out what kind of team you have.”

The sheet of paper in Mazey’s hand didn’t include star shortstop J.J. Wetherholt, who is still moving gingerly on an injured hamstring.

He also didn’t see Brodie Kresser, a heavy-hitting junior-college transfer who was tabbed to fill in for Wetherholt. Kresser is also out with an injury.

His pitching staff is missing two key pieces with injuries to Robby Porco and Derek Clark.

There are a lot of reasons for the Mountaineers (5-4) to play the woe-is-me tune right now, not that they are interested in that.

“They don’t care that J.J. is hurt and Brodie Kresser’s not playing,” Mazey said. “Sometimes when your best player gets hurt, your whole team gets hurt. We’re not playing that way. Our guys are going out there and playing with confidence.”

And they are playing with versatility.

Take the case of sophomore Ellis Garcia, who led the Mountaineers with two hits and two RBIs against the Golden Griffins (2-3).

The shortstop is now his for the time being. That comes after playing third base as a freshman and thinking he was mostly going to play second base this season.

“We moved around all fall, but I played shortstop growing up and in high school, so I have a lot of experience there,” Garcia said. “I think we’re all sort of used to moving around.”

And playing without the usual cast of characters is not an excuse for poor play, Garcia added.

“Last year, J.J. went down for a few weeks in a big stretch in Big 12 play,” Garcia said. “I think we went 6-1 or 7-1. It’s the next-guy-up mentality and you do whatever you’ve got to do in order to win.”

Starter Gavin Van Kempen lasted four innings and gave up two runs on two hits. He walked three and struck out four.

“I think Gavin attacked them pretty well,” Mazey said. “That’s as good as he’s pitched recently and that’s encouraging.”

Maxx Yehl (1-0) picked up the win with one inning of shutout relief.

Overall the game was a walk-fest. Both WVU and Canisius combined for 18 free passes and five hit batters.

With all of the extra base runners, WVU needed only eight hits to score its 10 runs.

The Mountaineers scored nine of their 10 runs over the first six innings.

Logan Sauve scored three of those runs and Reed Chumley also drove in two runs with an off-the-wall triple in the third inning that gave WVU a 4-2 lead.

Skylar King, Sam White and Benjamin Lumsden also collected RBIs.

And at some point, Mazey expects to get back to Plan A, but until then, Plan B and Plan C seem to be working out so far.

“The ability to move around and be able to play different positions is good for us while they’re here and good for them after they leave here,” Mazey said. “The fact Garcia can do that and Spencer Barnett can do that, Chumley can do that and J.J. has done it since he’s been here. There is so much value in a utility player, but they are hard to come by these days, too.”

Former Morgantown High standout Aaron Jamison recorded his first collegiate stolen base and run scored in the game.

Jamison came in as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and walked. He stole second base and scored on Tyler Cox’s RBI single.