The West Liberty University baseball team wrapped up an impressive regular season with two more wins against Ohio County rival Wheeling Jesuit Sunday afternoon at Kovalick Field.
Coach Eric Burkle’s Hilltoppers (26-23, 23-18) had locked up the sixth and final Mountain East Conference tournament berth with an 8-4 win against the Cardinals (17-27, 17-23) in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader but the second game was suspended by rain after four innings and had to be completed Sunday before the start of the season-ending twinbill.
After West Liberty finished off a 3-2 win in the suspended game, the Hilltoppers rolled to a 4-0 shutout of WJU in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. The Cardinals picked up their only win of the weekend with a 5-0 verdict in the season finale.
With the three wins this weekend, West Liberty clinched its first winning season since Bo McConnaughy’s 1998 West Virginia Conference championship squad posted a 29-19 mark. This year’s 26 wins are also the most since that 1998 title team while the 23 league wins are a school record.
In the suspended game, Mike Reef pitched out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the top of the seventh to finish off a 3-inning save. Nursing a 3-1 lead, the veteran southpaw got Cody Hudson to ground into a 6-4-3 double play with one run scoring and the tying run moving to third. Reef then retired Tony Connacher on a grounder to second to end the game.
Dylan Grosul got the win. He had allowed only one run through the first four innings on Saturday before the rains came. Tim Mirandy and Anthony Pierro each had two hits for the Hilltoppers, who scored all three of their runs in the first inning. Mirandy and Josh Nagel each had RBI singles in the frame.
Yale Hughes fired a 3-hit shutout to lead WLU in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Hughes held the Cardinals to just three harmless singles in a masterful performance. Scott Castilow drove in two runs with a single and a sacrifice fly while Pierro had another multi-hit game with a double and a single.
In Sunday’s regular-season finale, West Liberty stroked out seven hits against Carter Sancomb but couldn’t find their way across the plate as WJU salvaged its only win of the weekend series. Jon-Michael Brunner had a triple and a double for the Hilltoppers while Mirandy added a pair of singles.
West Liberty is expected to be the No. 6 seed in the inaugural Mountain East Conference Tournament, which gets under way Thursday morning at Epling Stadium in Beckley, W.Va.
(Completion of suspended game)
West Liberty 3, Wheeling Jesuit 2
Wheeling Jesuit 001 000 1 – 2 6 3
West Liberty 300 000 x – 3 6 0
WJU: Weiss lp (2SO, 0W) and Biega. Pelegreen 2S; Young D, Hudson D