The WVU baseball team found a way to bounce back from its worst loss of the season.
The Mountaineers rebounded from the darkest point of the season, now more than halfway over, with a 5-4 win over Big 12 rival Kansas State at Monongalia County Ballpark on Sunday.
Less than 24 hours before the win, West Virginia fell by a score of 15-2 to the Wildcats.
What stung worst about the lopsided loss, and the 8-6 series-opening setback on Sunday night, was the fact that Kansas State is the worst team in the conference. After those two wins, the Wildcats still are in tenth place with a 3-9 record against Big 12 teams.
The Mountaineers are now 5-6 in the conference (a mark that is now good for fifth place) and 18-16 overall.
Despite the earlier two losses, WVU head coach Randy Mazey left the series, which drew more than 5,000 total fans to the second-year ballpark, feeling confident heading into Tuesday’s game against Youngstown State.
"“You feel so good today, not just about the win, but the way we won,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “It was a lot of the young guys coming in there. Kyle Gray with a huge walk, and of course (Braden) Zarbnisky with the (game-tying hit), that’s not an accident, he practices it all the time. I don’t think anybody’s ever had this big of a group of freshmen that contributes. This is a huge freshman class that’s trying to contribute.”"
What Mazey is trying to do with this program is certainly unique. As he stated, this is a youth movement implored at the Division I level like never before. The young team is still getting its feet wet in terms of playing against good competition, and playing with each other. It takes time to build chemistry and to form cohesion.
And, slowly but surely, it’s paying off for the young Mountaineers.
Some of these early growing pains will certainly pay off a year or two down the road. Right now, the Mountaineers are in the middle of the pack in the conference. By 2018, there is no reason why WVU shouldn’t be in the hunt for the Big 12 title.
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Already, Darius Hill is proving he is a star by leading the team with 46 hits and 26 RBIs. On Sunday, to cap off a four-run rally in the eighth inning, Nunn brought home the winning run with a single through the middle.
It was his fourth game-winning hit of the season.
It’s hard to tell if there truly is a clutch gene in the game of baseball, but Hill is certainly proving that “clutch” is one of his five tools.
Also on Sunday, Ivan Vera continued his hot play. He now has a 10-game hitting streak and has reach base safely in each of the past 13 games. He, too, is a freshman who has earned playing time this season and will continue to develop through his upperclassmen years.
Obviously, the Mountaineers would have liked to come out of the KSU series with three-straight wins. That didn’t happen.
But the WVU baseball team has reason to stay confident heading into the home stretch of the regular season. This win was a chance to prove themselves, and the Mountaineers did just that.