The West Liberty University baseball team opened the Mountain East Conference Tournament in frustrating fashion here Thursday night, dropping a 14-12 nail biter to West Virginia Wesleyan in a 13-inning marathon at rainy Epling Stadium.
Coach Eric Burkle’s Hilltoppers (28-20) jumped out to a big early lead but couldn’t hold off the hard-hitting Bobcats (22-28), who avenged a pair of regular season losses to the Black and Gold.
West Liberty scored five first-inning runs to jump on top early and held a 9-4 lead after three innings only to see Wesleyan come storming back to tie it with a single run in the fourth and four more in the fifth.
The teams traded runs in the seventh to remain deadlocked at 10-10 but the Bobcats took a 12-10 lead with a pair of runs in the top of the eighth and turned the game over to ace reliever Chris Metrick.
Metrick, who led the MEC with 8 saves during the regular season, struck out the side in the bottom of the eighth and had the Hilltoppers down to their final strike in the ninth inning before Ethan Estes ripped a 3-2 pitch to the right field wall for a game-tying 2-run triple.
West Liberty reliever Tory Fuscardo matched zeros with Metrick through the 10th, 11th and 12th frames but a walk, wild pitch and a pair of singles sent Metrick back to the hill with a 14-12 lead.
The Hilltoppers couldn’t break through against the Bobcat ace this time as Metrick struck out all three West Liberty batters to end the 4-hour marathon. Metrick had 10 strikeouts and no walks in his 6-inning relief stint to record his sixth win without a loss.
Alex Rojas had two doubles and two RBIs for the Hilltoppers while Estes had a single to go along with his clutch ninth-inning triple. Bub Haddox chased home two runs with a double and a single while Yale Hughes weighed in with a double, single and RBI.
Nolan Marcus had a two-run double, Coby Eckstein singled home a pair of runs and Justice Jackson added two singles and an RBI.
The road doesn’t get any easier for West Liberty as they return to Epling Stadium Friday at 3 p.m. to take on MEC North Division champion Shepherd. The Rams beat Charleston, 10-6, in Thursday’s first game.
W.Va. Wesleyan 14, West Liberty 12
W.Va. Wesleyan 031 140 120 000 2 – 14 19 1
West Liberty 522 000 102 000 0 – 12 12 2
WVW: Perry (6SO, 5W), Bishop (6) (2SO, 2W), Isom (7) (1SO, 0W), Metrick wp (8) (10SO, 0W) and Castello. Forbrick T, D, 2S, rbi; Rotarius 2S, D, 4rbi; Keene D, 2S, rbi; Fraser 2D, 2rbi; Smith D, S, 2rbi; Kiser 2S; Castello S, rbi; Koon S, rbi
WLU: Retzer (7SO, 2W), Shook (5) (1SO, 3W), Fuscardo lp (8) (1SO, 4W) and Rojas. Rojas 2D, 2rbi; Estes T, S, 2rbi; V.Haddox D, S, 2rbi; Y.Hughes D, S, rbi; Jackson 2S, rbi; Marcus D, 2rbi; Eckstein S, 2rbi