University tops rival Morgantown for state tourney berth

GRANVILLE, W.Va. – University plated five runs in the first inning and fended off a Morgantown rally to defeat the Mohigans 13-8 and earn its first trip to the state tournament since 2004.

“Any time we’re the away team we want to throw that first punch, score first and get some momentum and getting a five spot helps that and settled the nerves a little bit,” said Coach Brad Comport.

University landed the first punch in the heavyweight bout between the two rivals sending 11 batters to the plate in the first inning with the first five hitters reaching base. All five of those baserunners came around to score as Noah Braham, Wenkai Campbell and Jake Coston strung together three run-scoring hits in a row, highlighted by a two-run double off the bat of Campbell.

The Hawks took a 7-0 lead in the top of the third inning when Josh Smolkin singled home a pair of runs.

Morgantown clawed back into the game with a big inning of its own. The Mohigans batted around in the bottom of the third, scoring five runs on five hits, all coming with two outs. After University starting pitcher Gabe Jansen retired the first two batters of the inning, Morgantown’s Riley Anderson singled, followed by back-to-back walks. Ryan Fluharty’s bases clearing double got Morgantown on the board, then Aaron Jamison and Caleb Nutter drove in two more runs with RBI singles to cut University’s lead to 7-5.

However, the Hawks responded and crushed any hopes of a Morgantown comeback.

University answered Morgantown’s rally with six runs in the top of the fourth. Brody Latocha and Cody Thomas delivered run-scoring singles as the Hawks built a 13-5 lead they would not relinquish.

While University’s offense lit up the scoreboard, Jansen was effective on the mound, pitching into the fifth inning, limiting Morgantown’s opportunities, outside of the five-run third inning. Daniel Grabo relieved Jansen with one out in the fifth and slammed the door on a potential Morgantown rally, getting a pair of fly balls to end the inning.

“Gabe is tough. He’s a competitor. Kudos to him for having the nature to keep us in even when they put the five spot on us. Gabe stopped the bleeding and our offense did a great job responding,” said Comport.

University is the second seed in Class AAA will take on third seeded Hedgesville Friday afternoon following No. 1 Cabell-Midland vs. No. 4 St. Albans. That game gets underway at 10 a.m.

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