TRENTON, N.J – On Sunday afternoon in Trenton, New Jersey, West Virginia took the game and the series against the Trenton Thunder in sudden death after ending the game tied 3-3. Pitcher Grayson Thurman and the Black Bears defense held the Thunder from scoring in the sudden death inning to secure victory. Ryan Hernandez led the West Virginia offense and recorded his 10th home run of the season with a two-RBI shot to center field to break the MLB Draft League single-season record.
After losing control of a tight game on Saturday evening, the Black Bears defense bounced back today and dominated through eight innings. Highlighted by a 1-6-3 double play, the Bears defense kept the Thunder off the board through the bottom of the first inning. Despite a leadoff single for the Thunder, West Virginia safely exited the inning tied 0-0.
Starting pitcher Patrick Miner began his dominant performance early in the game as he notched two of his nine strikeouts in the bottom of the second inning.
West Virginia’s offense finally found its footing in the top of the third inning with Ryan Hernandez powering his 10th home run of the season over the right field wall. The two-run home run brought home 2B Maddox Houghton and gave West Virginia a 2-0 lead.
The Bears’ strong defensive play continued through the third and fourth innings as Miner added two more strikeouts to his total for four strikeouts through four innings pitched.
In the top of the fifth, West Virginia extended its lead to three runs. A single from SS Anthony Stehlin and the walk of OF Turner Hill by Trenton starter Christian Capuano put two runners on base. With Stehlin in scoring position, 2B Maddux Houghton drove a ball into left field to plate the shortstop and give the Black Bears a 3-0 lead midway through the game.
Trenton reached home plate for the first time in the bottom of the seventh inning, thanks to a combination of base hits for Trenton’s LF Christian Merriweather and 2B Dilan Espinal. A sacrifice fly from 3B Damian Yenzi later in the inning scored a run for Trenton to cut the Bears lead to two.
Unfortunately for West Virginia, Trenton’s bats finally came alive in the bottom of the ninth inning. A groundout from Espinal scored pinch hitter Jonathan Waite, while a single from RF Paul Coumoulos drove in the Thunder’s second pinch hitter Mark Herron to tie the game at three runs. Black Bears closer Grayson Thurman ended the inning with a strikeout to send the game into sudden death.
In the first sudden death of the season in Trenton, New Jersey, the Thunder elected to bat, relying on its offense to send the Bears home with a series loss. After one Trenton batter was thrown out at first, Thurman struck out the final two batters of the evening to give West Virginia the win.
With his two-run home run, Ryan Hernandez broke the MLB Draft League single-season home run record. The previous record of nine home runs was set by Frederick Keys slugger Jake Plastiak in 2021. The Houston University alum now leads the league in hits (49) home runs (10) and slugging percentage (.631).
Additionally, Maddux Houghton recorded his seventh consecutive game with a hit as he drove in the other run for the Black Bears. Houghton finished his evening with two hits, one run and one RBI.
On the defensive side, Patrick Miner had one of his best outings to date as he struck out nine Thunder batters in seven innings pitched. Reliever Kanan Butler notched one scoreless inning for the Bears before Grayson Thurman slammed the door in the sudden death inning.
The West Virginia Black Bears improve to 37-23 on the 2022 campaign as they remain in first place in the MLB Draft League standings. The Black Bears will begin their final six-game home stand of the season on Tuesday evening with a three-game series against the Frederick Keys. First pitch for Tuesday is set for 6:35 p.m.