By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Concord University baseball coach Andrew Wright is a creature of habit. He likes to keep things on a routine and keep his players focused. So when Concord set out for Linda K. Epling Stadium from Athens on Thursday morning, Wright expected to be playing baseball at 3:30 p.m. What happened instead was anything but routine.
“I looked up and saw some traffic and thought, "It’s no big deal, I’ve been through this before,'” Wright said. “Then ya know, an hour and fourty-five minutes later, we finally started moving.”
The Concord baseball team, like hundreds of others, was stuck on I-77 due to traffic backup from a semi-truck fire between the Mabscott and Harper Road exits in Beckley.
“It delayed some things a bit, but our team did a good job of being focused while on the bus,” Wright added. “We kept it loose and stuff like that.”
Whatever they did on the bus must have worked as the Mountain Lions accounted for five runs on 12 hits to defeat the University of Charleston to improve to 2-0 in the WVIAC baseball tournament.
Concord kept its hopes of winning the final WVIAC championship alive thanks to the stellar pitching of sophomore hurler Kevin Mack.
Mack isn’t an overpowering pitcher, using several different offspeed pitches to his advantage to keep his opponents guessing. He held the Golden Eagles offense to only five hits.
“I’m just trying to stay focused,” Mack said. “I knew our team was going to come around and give us some runs in the late innings. I’m just trying to throw strikes and get ahead of batters and get them out.”
Mack was right. The Mountain Lions would add a run in the seventh inning and three more in the eighth to give Mack the win - and more importantly - the chance to play another day.
Concord’s offensive attack went right after former Greenbrier East and current Golden Eagle pitcher Alec Austin. The effort was led by redshirt Senior Devin Smith, who went 4-for-5 with an RBI, junior Bret Blevins, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and sophomore Jerrod Groves, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Concord also had four other batters with a hit each.
“When you look up and down our lineup, we were bunting with our third hitter, our ninth hitter, whoever was up at the time and we needed to move a runner,” Wright said. “My hat’s off to our entire offense for playing selfless baseball, but Kevin Mack stole the show there, keeping us in it so we could score some runs late.”
The Mountain Lions broke up a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning when Groves drove home Joey Miller to give Concord a 2-1 lead. The following inning, Josh Wegner and Blevins drove in three runs to make sure the Mountain Lions stayed on top.
“Most of my games have been low-scoring games,” Mack said. “My team comes around and scores for me.”
Concord won’t know who it will play in tonight’s 7 p.m. matchup at Epling Stadium until the morning, but Wright has confidence in his team’s ability.
“I hope so, I certainly hope so,” Wright said on whether Concord will be able to keep the momentum going. “If we keep getting the pitching performance we’re getting right now, I don’t see it being a big problem. If we can keep manufacturing runs like we did the last couple of games, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Mack certainly hopes his season continues, as well.
“We’ve been playing baseball all season long,” he said. “It’s fun for us playing in college. I just love being out here everyday. It’s alright with me if I’ll be doing it for a couple more weeks.”
As for today, it’s back to the routine.
“”We’ll just go about our business and stick to a routine,” Wright said. “We don’t get too hyped about it; we just show up. I told our guys after the game, ‘Let’s get ready for Friday.’
Hopefully this routine involves a little less traffic.
— E-mail: jrollins
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.
Concord University 5,
University of Charleston 1
CU: 001 000 130 — 5 12 1
UC: 001 000 000 — 1 5 1
CU: Kevin Mack, Will Zuspan (9) and T.J. Brockway, UC: Alec Austin, Alex Oldham (7) and Sage Iacovone. WP — Mack. LP — Austin. Hitting — CU: Smith 4-5 (RBI), Johnston 1-3 (R), Miller 1-4 (2 R), Wenger 1-3 (RBI, R), Blevins 2-4 (2 RBI), Groves 2-4 (RBI, R), Brockway 1-3. UC: Foster 3-3 (R), Collin 1-4, Hill 1-4, Shraer 1-3.
Seton Hill 8,
West Liberty 1
Alex Haines carried a no-hitter through 5 2-3 innings, and Pat McCarthy drove in three runs to lead Seton Hill to an 8-1 win over West Liberty to begin day two of the WVIAC Tournament. The loss eliminated West Liberty from the tournament.
Haines tossed 13 strikeouts in the must-win game with his no-hitter being broken up with one out to go in the sixth inning off of a single by Travis Denmen. For the day, Haines went seven innings, giving up just one run on four hits. Sam Bashioum closed out the game for SHU with two scoreless innings pitched.
Seton Hill totaled 13 hits on the day — five players had two-hit games. In addition to driving in three runs, McCarthy was one of two players for the Griffins to hit home runs. Mike Cima recorded SHU’s other home run while also driving in a pair runners.
West Liberty was paced by leadoff hitter Anthony Pierro, who was 1-for-4 with one RBI. Starting pitcher Mark Smyth took the loss for the Hilltoppers after allowing seven runs on nine hits with four strikeouts in 5 2-3 innings of work.
Seton Hill posted one-run innings in the third, fourth and fifth before exploding for four runs in the sixth thanks to a two-run single by Brandon Constantino and a two-run home run from McCarthy.
SHU added its eighth run of the game in the seventh inning before West Liberty was able to break up the shutout with Pierro’s RBI in the bottom half of the inning.
Fairmont State 10,
Davis & Elkins 3
Fairmont State defeated Davis & Elkins 10-3 in an elimination game behind Randy Tallhamer’s 3-for-3, one-homerun, five-RBI day. FSU pitcher Nick Opferman tossed a gem, scattering 13 hits and striking out eight batters while allowing just three runs over eight innings pitched.
The Fighting Falcons struck first when Tallhamer sent a double down the left field line that scored Jonathan Fansler, who reached base earlier in the inning with a double, in the first inning.
FSU extended its lead to 3-0 off of one-run innings in the third and fourth, before putting the game out of reach with a three-run fifth inning that was highlighted by a two-run RBI-double from Phil Longnecker.
Davis & Elkins battled back with one run the fifth and two more in the seventh, but the Senators could not contain the Fairmont State offense that went on to score two more insurance runs in the sixth and eighth inning on the way to the seven-run victory.
Fansler, Longnecker and Josh Wine joined Tallhamer with multi-hit games as well for FSU. Davis & Elkins was led by Matt Moceri, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
West Virginia State 5,
West Virginia State continued its winning ways in the 2013 WVIAC Baseball Tournament, defeating Shepherd 5-3 Thursday.
Chad Murphy led off the scoring for the Rams (26-21) with an RBI single to left-center to give Shepherd an early 1-0 lead.
The Yellow Jackets (29-17) took the lead in the bottom of the third with a four-run inning. Jack Hudson tied the game with a sacrifice fly, and WVSU went ahead on an Anthony Payne RBI single. Garret Kiser hit a RBI single down the right field line, and Payne scored the final run of the inning to give the Yellow Jackets a 4-1 lead.
The Rams climbed back into the game in their half of the fifth with a two-run home run from Ryan Messina to pull within one, 4-3. SU had an opportunity to reclaim the lead in the sixth with the bases loaded, but Kiser, playing in left field, made a spectacular catch to end the inning.
Andrew Pickering added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff round-tripper to left field for his third hit of the day. Pickering and Payne finished with three hits each.
Jake Cook and Murphy led the Rams with two hits apiece.
Tyler Thompson earned the win after eight innings on the mound. He sruck out nine, while Joshua Falbo earned his second save of the tournament.