GRANVILLE, W.Va. – The West Virginia Black Bears dropped the first game of the series to the Williamsport Crosscutters by a score of 9-6 at Monongalia County Ballpark on Friday night. With the loss, West Virginia sits just 4.5 games ahead of the second-place Frederick Keys in the MLB Draft League standings with seven games remaining in the season.
West Virginia wasted no time scoring and took an early lead in the first inning. After Crosscutters’ starting pitcher Ruddy Gomez walked Patrick Lee, Michael Cooper sent a home run over the right field wall for the first runs of the game. Heading into the second, the Bears led by two.
But Williamsport struck back in the top of the third. Isaiah Byars hit a ball deep to left-center field that hopped the wall for a ground-rule double that scored Jalen Greer. The next at-bat, Brayland Skinner added one on a groundout that brought home Mason Minzey. A single from Adam Becker put Williamsport ahead by one before a two-run homer from Jose Gonzalez gave the Cutters a three-run lead.
After two scoreless innings for the Bears, West Virginia pulled within two in the fifth inning. Lee doubled on a line drive to right field that scored Cam Ridley. Williamsport ended the inning with a double play, but the Bears cut the lead to 5-3.
Brooks Garrett replaced Bears’ starter AJ Stinson to start the sixth. Garrett, who struggled in his appearance, allowed three straight walks to load the bases. A single from Greer coupled with a throwing error by Lee scored two more Williamsport runs. Manager David Carpenter pulled Garrett with no outs and sent in newcomer Tristen Hudson. One more run came in on a single from Byars before Hudson and the Bears closed out the inning. Going into the bottom of the sixth, the Black Bears trailed by five.
West Virginia refused to go quietly and capitalized on two wild pitches to pull within three in the home half of the inning. After two walks and a single, Anthony Hansen scored on a wild pitch from Kaleb Sophy. Another wild pitch plated Tyner Hughes from third to cut Williamsport’s lead to three runs.
The Bears continued to dig themselves out of the hole in the bottom of the eighth. A single from Manny Vorhees brought home Cam Ridley to bring the score to 8-6.
Williamsport added one final run in the top of the ninth on a single from Will Fuenning. Heading into the final frame, the Crosscutters led by three.
Though West Virginia attempted another late-game comeback and even managed to load the bases, the Bears ended the inning and the game on a strikeout.
Despite the loss, the Black Bears’ offense put on a solid performance. Michael Cooper drove in two runs on his first-inning homer for his second home run in two nights. Patrick Lee tagged on one hit, one run and an RBI, while Manny Vorhees brought in one RBI with two hits.
The Bears’ bullpen could not seem to find a rhythm the entire game. Only Tristen Hudson managed to keep the Crosscutters from scoring during his appearance. The former West Virginia University Mountaineer threw three strikeouts with one hit in two innings pitched. Steven Colon, who closed for the Bears, picked up three strikeouts of his own in his two innings of work.
West Virginia continues its quest to clinch a spot in the MLB Draft League Championship with game two against Williamsport on Saturday evening. First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m.