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Kearns, West Virginia continues to impress

Courtesy of West Virginia Athletics
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University baseball team won its third straight game with a 14-7 win against in-state foe Marshall on Tuesday evening at Monongalia County Ballpark.

The Mountaineers (16-10) improved to 44-24 all-time against the Thundering Herd (12-14) and have won five of the last six games and 14 of the last 17 in the series. Playing its fourth home game of the season, WVU has won eight of its last 11 games.

Behind an offensive explosion that scored 14 runs on 16 hits, with the help of five Marshall errors, West Virginia benefited from a strong pitching performance from a freshmen duo of Isaiah Kearns and Sam Kessler.

WVU scored at least eight runs for the eighth time this season. The Mountaineers were led by senior first baseman Jackson Cramer, who had a team-high four RBIs with a team-high-tying three hits with three runs scored. Cramer hit his fifth home run of the season and third in four games at home in the first inning to get the day started. He added a double and a single, a triple shy of the cycle.

Junior left fielder Kyle Davis also had three hits and an RBI, and freshman catcher Chase Illig had two hits, an RBI and three runs scored with a pair of walks. Both Davis and Illig each had a double.

“We hit a lot of homers, that’s my favorite play,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “We got a really good offensive team if we don’t get in our own way. Singles don’t really win it for you. Extra-base hits win games, and that’s what we did tonight, we drove some balls and hit some doubles. Cramer gets a home run and a double and Davis doubles, that’s how you win and that’s how you score runs with extra-base hits and they did the same thing. That’s a good offensive team over there. We are up 11-3 in the middle of game with the wind blowing out. You still don’t feel that comfortable, so it’s good to come out of this one with a win.”

On the mound, Kearns improved to a team-best 4-0, pitching 5.2 innings and allowing seven runs on nine hits with seven strikeouts.

He was followed by Kessler, who was dominant in 3.1 innings to close out the game. Kessler allowed just one hit, a triple by the first batter he faced, and struck out four with one walk. He picked up his first career save.

“On a great night to play offense, with the wind blowing out, and those guys are a pretty good offensive team, to get through this game with just two freshmen pitchers when we got two mid-week games this week (is important),” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “We lost one of our starting pitchers this past weekend so this wasn’t a game where we could afford to throw five or six guys. For Sam to come in and do what he did was really good from a team standpoint.”

Marshall took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a solo home run by Tyler Ratliff, but the Mountaineers answered right back with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. After sophomore designated hitter Ivan Gonzalez reached on a throwing error, Cramer launched his fifth home run of the season, just clearing the wall in right field and landing in the WVU bullpen.

The Thundering Herd regained the lead, at 3-2, with back-to-back RBI hits in the top of the second. The advantage was short lived, as West Virginia answered with three runs on three hits, with two errors, in the bottom of the second.

The first six batters in the third reached, with the help of a walk, a fielding error and a fielder’s choice. Runs scored on singles by sophomore shortstop Jimmy Galusky and sophomore second baseman Kyle Gray and when Gonzalez reached on a fielder’s choice.

With a 5-3 West Virginia lead, both teams followed with scoreless third innings, with Marshall being retired in order. The Thundering Herd went scoreless again in the fourth before the Mountaineers batted around and scored six runs in the bottom half of the inning.

Cramer drove in two more runs with a one-out double to left center, and he promptly scored on sophomore third baseman Cole Austin’s single. With two outs, Davis doubled home Austin from first, and Illig brought home Davis with a double down the right field line.

The scoring was capped to make it 11-3 when freshman center fielder Brandon White singled to bring home Illig, who was on third after a wild pitch.

Kearns answered with a quick 1-2-3 top of the fifth, throwing just eight pitches in the frame.

WVU was also retired in order in the fifth, and Marshall responded with four runs in the top of the sixth to cut the Mountaineer lead to 11-7. A leadoff home run by Tyler Ratliff was followed by three straight singles to load the bases. The Herd scored one on a wild pitch and another on a throwing error before the final run scored on an RBI triple off of Kessler, his only hit allowed in the game.

The Mountaineers added a run in the seventh on an infield single by freshman TJ Lake before scoring two more in the eighth. With runners on second and third and one out, Gray singled up the middle to make it a 14-7 game.

Meanwhile, Kessler threw a 1-2-3 seventh and eighth innings before finishing off the game in the ninth to earn his first career save.

West Virginia’s homestand continues tomorrow against Morehead State, at 5 p.m. ET. It is a dollar day, with tickets and select concession items just $1. Tickets are still available, at 1-800-WVU GAME, WVUGAME.com or at the Mountaineer Ticket Office in the WVU Coliseum or on gameday at Monongalia County Ballpark. The game will be streamed for free on WVUSports.com and broadcast on the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG on various affiliates throughout the state, online at WVUsports.com, on the Mountaineer Gameday App and the TuneInRadio App. Links to the live stream, radio broadcast and live stats can be found on the baseball schedule page on WVUsports.com.

NOTES: West Virginia improves to 16-10 on the season and 3-1 at home and has won eight of its last 11 games … WVU improves to 44-24 all-time against Marshall and 30-8 at home and the Mountaineers have won five of the last six games in the series and 14 of the last 17 … WVU’s 14 runs scored are its most scored against Marshall since a 17-2 road win on April 5, 1988 … Starter Isaiah Kearns earned his team-leading 4th win of the season, pitching 5.2 innings and allowing seven runs on nine hits with a career-best seven strikeouts and no walks … Reliever Sam Kessler followed Kearns and earned his first career save, pitching 3.1 innings and allowing no runs on just one hit with four strikeouts and a walk … Jackson Cramer hit his fifth home run of the year and 23rd of his career in the first inning, his third home run in four home games in 2017 … Cramer had a team-high-tying three hits and a team-best four RBIs.

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