Redshirt junior catcher/outfielder Vince Ippoliti’s two-run home run in the top of the 10th inning helped catapult the No. 14/21/22-ranked West Virginia University baseball team to a 5-3, season-opening win over Georgia State on Friday afternoon at the GSU Baseball Complex in Atlanta, Georgia.
With one out and a runner on first, Ippoliti blasted a ball over the left-field wall to give the Mountaineers a two-run advantage in the 10th, before junior right-handed pitcher Madison Jeffrey was able to shut the door in the thrilling victory. WVU finished with five runs on nine hits with three errors, while GSU tallied three runs on seven hits with no errors.
The win marked WVU’s third Opening Day triumph in the last four seasons. Jeffrey earned the win, while GSU’s Mason Patel took the loss.
“It has been so long since we played baseball, we figured we’d play extra innings on the first day out,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “I think we got six new guys into the game today in different roles to see what they are capable of doing. All the new guys did a good job; we just have to get veteran leadership.
“You could tell we’ve been inside a lot. We didn’t catch a couple pop ups, but the pitchers attacked the strike zone, and it’s good to get a win and have everybody feeling good about themselves. We have to get better every time out, and we usually do, so, I’m just glad we could get a win when we don’t play well.”
Georgia State grabbed the early lead when senior left-handed pitcher Jackson Wolf, who earned the Opening Day nod on the mound for the second straight year, walked a batter with the bases loaded to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. After that, though, the Gahanna, Ohio, native settled in, finishing with seven strikeouts and just one hit allowed in five innings of work.
In the second, sophomore catcher/infielder Matt McCormick quickly tied the game when he blasted the Mountaineers’ first long ball of the season to right. Then, in the bottom half, he turned a slick, unassisted double play to help Wolf get through the frame.
GSU retook the lead in the bottom of the third, though, on an RBI single following a West Virginia throwing error. But WVU responded again in the fourth when senior catcher Paul McIntosh smacked a two-out, RBI double to left center to make it 2-2.
In the fifth, West Virginia made a pair of nice defensive plays to hold the Panthers at bay. First, junior outfielder Austin Davis made a diving catch for the first out, before the WVU infield turned a double play to end the inning.
The Mountaineers earned their first lead of the day in the sixth, thanks to McIntosh drawing a bases-loaded walk. However, WVU tallied just the lone run in the frame, despite have the bases full and no outs at one point.
From there, the Panthers drew even in the bottom half off junior right-hander Zach Ottinger, who came on in relief following Wolf’s exit. GSU slapped a two-out, RBI single up the middle to make it a 3-3 contest.
It stayed that way until Georgia State got the winning run on second with only one out in the bottom of the ninth. That’s when Jeffrey entered the game and struck out a pair to send the game into extras. Following’s Ippoliti’s 10th-inning blast, the Barboursville, West Virginia, native also got the final three outs to seal the win.
Senior infielder Tyler Doanes finished 3-for-4 with a run in the win, while redshirt senior outfielder Hudson Byorick and McCormick tallied two hits apiece. McIntosh and Ippoliti each registered two RBIs. On the mound, WVU pitching combined to strike out 15 batters on Friday.
Next up, WVU readies for a double-header against the Panthers on Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Game 2 is slated to start approximately 5 p.m.