GRANVILLE, W.Va. – The West Virginia Black Bears took game two from the Williamsport Crosscutters in a 16-8 win at Monongalia County Ballpark on Saturday evening. The Bears evened the series in an offensive onslaught with 18 hits and at least one run scored in seven consecutive innings.
Starting pitcher Nate Madej set the tone early for the Black Bears as they retired the side in five straight innings. Through the first five, the Black Bears held the Crosscutters hitless with Madej picking up seven strikeouts.
West Virginia’s bats began heating up in the second inning. After leading off with back-to-back singles, Cam Ridley drove in the first run of the game on another single to left field. Tyner Hughes grounded out to score Manny Vorhees for the two-run lead.
The next inning, the Black Bears’ offense dropped five more runs on the Crosscutters. Vorhees found himself in scoring position on a double to start the inning. Notching his second RBI of the night, Ridley singled to bring home Vorhees. Another single from Noah Lucier scored Ridley for a four-run lead. With the bases loaded, Cutters’ starting pitcher John Mikolaicyk walked Patrick Lee for a free run. Michael Cooper continued his hitting streak with a single that scored Lucier and Ben McClain before Williamsport finally secured the third out. Heading into the fourth, West Virginia led 7-0.
The runs continued to flow for the Bears in the bottom of the fourth. Ridley picked up RBI number three on a single that plated Anthony Hansen. One hard-hit double to center field by Hughes brought home Ridley for the ninth run of the game.
Williamsport manager Jesse Litsch called to his bullpen in the fifth as the Bears stepped up to the plate. Continuing the early and aggressive scoring, Lee sent a fly ball deep to right-center field for his third home run of the season.
The Black Bears stumbled in the top of the sixth, giving up eight runs to the Crosscutters. After scoring three and loading the bases, Freddy Rojas, Jr. hit a grand slam to right field to bring Williamsport within three. Jalen Greer scored Will Fuenning on an RBI single before Madej pulled the Bears out of the inning with a strikeout. After leading by 10, West Virginia was now up 10-8.
But the Bears created some much-needed space with six unanswered runs in their final two innings at bat. In the bottom of the sixth, Michael Cooper brought home Lucier, McClain and Lee on an RBI-double. West Virginia added an insurance run in the seventh as Ridley crossed the plate on a line drive by McClain. Just for good measure, Ridley notched his fourth RBI of the night on a groundout. Then Hughes hit an RBI single that scored Vorhees to double the Crosscutters’ score.
John Bakke finished his two-inning outing by closing in the ninth. Though Williamsport picked up one hit, Bakke crushed any hope of scoring with a strikeout to end the game.
In one of the most explosive offensive games of the second half, the Black Bears put up 16 runs on 18 hits with just one strikeout. Cam Ridley make a spectacle of the Crosscutters’ defense, going four-for-six at the plate. Ridley, from Jacksonville State, ended his evening with three runs, four RBI and his 24th stolen base of the season. Michael Cooper, who has recorded a hit in every game this home stand, finished with two tonight. Cooper drove in five runs with three coming in off his double in the sixth inning. Patrick Lee also got his third home run this year on his solo shot in the fifth.
Despite a rough sixth inning, Nate Madej and the Black Bears bullpen made an impressive start and finish. Madej ended his 5.1 inning appearance with seven strikeouts, though he allowed eight runs (six earned) in the top of the sixth. Jarrett Miller and John Bakke continued to be the most reliable relievers in the Black Bears’ bullpen. Miller, who recorded four strikeouts, joined his former college teammate in holding the Crosscutters from scoring through 3.2 total innings of work.
With the win, West Virginia stays 3.5 games ahead of the second-place Frederick Keys in the MLB Draft League standings with six games remaining. The Black Bears finish the series and the season at home on Sunday afternoon at Monongalia County Ballpark. First pitch for the final home game of 2023 is set for 4:00 p.m.