A big sixth inning rally and a gutty mound performance by senior ace Mark Smyth carried the West Liberty University baseball team to an 8-7 win against Concord here Friday afternoon in a Mountain East Conference Tournament elimination-round game.
Coach Eric Burkle’s Hilltoppers (28-24) will return to the artificial surface of Linda K. Epling Stadium Saturday at 3 p.m. to face the loser of Friday night’s winners’ bracket game between West Virginia State and Notre Dame.
Smyth, a three-time All-MEC selection from Bloomingdale, Ohio, was a bulldog on the hill for the Black and Gold. He threw a career-high 171 pitches in picking up his ninth win and 10th complete game of the season – both MEC highs – to keep the WLU season alive.
Some shaky Hilltopper fielding in the early going gave the Mountain Lions (23-27) three unearned runs but West Liberty capitalized on several Concord miscues in the top of the sixth to turn the tables.
The Hilltoppers sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs to take an 8-3 lead. All of the runs were unearned, thanks to three errors by the Mountain Lions. Nevertheless, the WLU batters did a great job of keeping the merry-go-round going with several clutch at-bats.
Six of the seven runs crossed the plate with two outs and the uprising was capped by designated hitter Mike Adams’ ringing three-run double into the right field corner.
Concord leads the MEC in hitting and ranks among the NCAA Division II leaders with a .330 team batting average so Smyth still had a long row to hoe.
The Mountain Lions scratched out a single run in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to 8-4 and loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the eighth.
With the Hilltoppers’ season on the line, Smyth masterfully worked his way out of the jam with a double-play grounder and an infield out. That limited the damage to a single run and sent West Liberty into the ninth with an 8-5 lead.
Smyth retired the first two batters in the ninth but Concord wasn’t finished. A triple, a walk and back-to-back singles cut the lead to 8-7 with the tying and winning runs on base.
Burkle opted to stay with his senior standout and Smyth rewarded that vote of confidence by getting Sullivan on an infield grounder to end the game.
Ethan Estes drove in a run with two singles and a double while Adams finished with two doubles and three RBIs. Jose Carranza had two singles and an RBI while Justice Jackson added an RBI base knock.
(at Beckley, W.Va.)
West Liberty 8, Concord 7
West Liberty 000 017 000 – 8 10 4
Concord 001 020 112 – 7 16 3
WLU: Smyth wp (3SO, 4W) and Carranza. Estes D, 2S, rbi; Adams 2D, 3rbi; Carranza 2S, rbi; Jackson S, rbi
Con: Kelly lp (2SO, 2W), Edwards (6) (2SO, 2W) and Williams. Williams T, 2S; Seigel 3S, rbi; Szamski D, S; Wiersma 2S, rbi; Sullivan 2S; Goss S, rbi; Frazier D