Legitimate Backyard Brawl simmers WVU’s way
SHEPHERDSTOWN – It was a mid-week college baseball game where both WVU and Pitt would use pitchers not expected to be starters on call for weekend games within their respective conferences.
It was also Dollar Night in Morgantown where the price of admission was only $1, along with the hot dogs, peanuts, soft drinks, soft pretzels and other edible concessions.
There was nothing casual about the game. A record crowd of 3,487 staked itself squarely on the backs of the Mountaineers, who broke a tie with a game-winning run in the eighth, to get West Virginia a 5-4 win that was largely celebrated by players, coaches and fans alike.
It was a legitimate Backyard Brawl affair where emotions simmered just below the surface for seven innings and then boiled to the surface afterwards, when a West Virginia batter was hit by a pitch and Pitt relief pitcher Dan Hammer was ejected in the next seconds by the plate umpire.
Pitt coach Mike Bell had none-so-soothing words for the four-man crew of umpires for the fifth time. And got nowhere, just as he had the other four times.
Lacking in sometimes staged civility, the teams did not perform the perfunctory and awkward handshakes at home plate when the 14th and final Pitt player had struck out and West Virginia’s Sam Kessler had earned his fifth save of the season.
West Virginia improved to 17-11 overall and the win-impoverished Panthers dipped to 8-19 overall.
There had never been a larger crowd at Monongahela County Stadium for any WVU game.
Pitt used seven pitchers and they combined to get nine strikeouts. But they also saw Kevin Brophy hit a two-run homer and add a game-deciding sacrifice fly in the eighth. West Virginia left-hander Nick Snyder went five impressive innings, leaving with a 4-1 lead and being only an official scorer’s decision away from having allowed no hits. Snyder has started six games this season, and West Virginia has not lost any of those games.
The Mountaineers will return the favor and see the Panthers on May 14 in Pittsburgh at the spacious home grounds of the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates.
That will be another edition of the all-sports Backyard Brawl, and no love will be lost between the schools again.