Record crowd celebrates WVU from beginning to end
MORGANTOWN — There was a no-doubt-about-it celebration in Morgantown last Friday, when WVU hosted one of the 16 NCAA Regional baseball tournaments.
People parked anywhere a space was available. Hundreds walked to Monongalia County Ballpark from long distances. With the exception of the 600 fans given tickets by Texas A&M, Duke and Fordham, the spiffy stadium was filled to the brim with West Virginia followers expecting a Mountaineer win over New York-based Fordham. And the on-their-feet at times spectators were rewarded with a 6-2 Mountaineer win that was buttressed by the staring pitching of Nick Snyder (9-1 record) and four innings of no-hit relief by Kade Strowd, who earned his first save of the season.
Everybody came to toast West Virginia baseball. And toast it they did.
Finding a spare ticket was like finding a Disney-like amusement park on the banks of the Monongahela River. Next to impossible. Scalpers on the internet were asking $100 per ticket. So many people poured through the turnstiles that hundreds were sitting on a grassy expense in foul territory way past third base.
The crowd was registered at 4,355 . . . and the place has seats for 3,500.
In the long run, WVU didn’t disappoint.
Even when Fordham got 1-0, first-inning lead against Snyder, the stands were ready with noise, suds and a no-holds-barred love for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia trumped the Rams’ early lead with a three-run third. And Snyder and Strowd took it from there. Leading, 5-1, and then, 6-1, West Virginia could cede a harmless ninth-inning run even though Strowd never allowed a hit.
People didn’t mind a long walk back to their vehicles at 11:30 p.m. when the game finally closed. Most would return on Saturday with their precious tickets, ready for an expected battle with Duke of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Duke had moved to a long lead over Texas A&M in Friday’s other game. The Blue Devils eventually won, 8-5.
West Virginia had Paul Bunyon-like Alek Manoah (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) ready for the Blue Devils. Manoah brought a 9-3 pitching record to challenge Duke, still only 32-25 after besting the Aggies.
The last, noisy vestiges of West Virginia’s Friday night, game-long celebration were expected to rebound and echo off the mountains near Coopers Rock and return long before game time of the Saturday evening Duke game.