The Times West Virginian


April 28, 2014

Mountaineers sweep series with K-State

MORGANTOWN — Combining a sledgehammer with a catch phrase borrowed from professional wrestling, baseball is fun again at West Virginia.

And successful.

The Mountaineers won their sixth straight game and completed a weekend sweep of Big 12 opponent Kansas State, beating the Wildcats, 6-1, before 1,519 sunbathed fans at Hawley Field.

While Kansas State is struggling and resides in last place in the Big 12, they were last year’s conference champions. West Virginia raised its record to 24-16 and is 7-7 in conference play.

Ross Vance, who came out of nowhere to end a seven-game losing streak by beating Ohio State, won his third in a row to go to 3-0. He was dominating against the top hitting team in the conference, allowing only five hits.

The only run came on a seventh-inning home run by Tanner DeVinny that hit the left-field foul pole.

Vance, a crafty left-hander who tricks hitters rather than overpowers them, struck out five and walked no one before turning the game over to Sean Carley, who closed it out with two scoreless innings in which he struck out four.

Right fielder Brad Johnson, who has been the driving offensive force for the Mountaineers since being shifted from third base to right field, had a single and triple, and drove in three runs. He has hit in seven straight games, going 13-for-25, a .520 average, while driving in 13 runs.

“He’s been a great RBI guy. I haven’t seen his average with guys in scoring position, but it has to be pretty good,” coach Randy Mazey said.

And, with each run he bats in, along with others, the players on the bench go into their “Yes, yes, yes!” chant, originated by WWE wrestler Daniel Bryant.

Along with that, the players continue to toss a sledgehammer around when good things are happening.

“It helps a ton. Coach talks about it all the time … energy, energy, energy. I feel like we got energy all game, no matter what, whether we’re throwing the hammer or doing ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ Everyone is having fun and enjoying the game every day,” Johnson said. “It goes for the guys on the bench to in the lineups. It’s just enjoying the game, enjoying being out here.”

Carley explained that the baseball team picked up the sledgehammer routine from the football team, which also has one.

“It’s more a motivational thing,” the relief pitcher said. “Everyone likes to swing a sledgehammer. It keeps everyone in the game and kind of represents the grit this team has. We’ve been smashing cans and boxes and stuff. “

And as for the “Yes, yes, yes!” chant, Carley explained its use.

“That keeps everyone in the game. We don’t want to be bush league with it but it keeps us energized.”

The way the Mountaineers are playing, though, they don’t need any gimmicks to stay energized.

Gone is the seven-game losing streak that threatened to ruin the season, replaced by high hopes.

“I told them before the game that opportunities come by in life not that often, as they don’t in college baseball all that often, to have a chance to sweep a team,” Mazey said. “That’s only the second time we’ve been in this position where we won the first two games of a weekend. This was a huge game just to prove that if we’re in this situation again, we’re starting to get confidence in the third game of a series.”

The opportunity came early Sunday for WVU and they didn’t capitalize, Johnson flying out to right field when he batted in the first inning with the bases loaded and two out.

That did not ruin his day, however, as he came back to drive in the game’s first run in the fourth inning and two more in the sixth, when the Mountaineers batted around and scored four runs.

“I’m not really a first-pitch swinger,” he said of the first-inning at bat. “In that situation the bases were loaded and I knew they were going to come with a fast ball and I was trying to get my swing off, but he came in on me and jammed me a little bit. It didn’t discourage me at all.”

Left fielder Jacob Rice had three hits for WVU and junior second baseman Billy Fleming batted 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Junior center fielder Bobby Boyd and senior first baseman Ryan McBroom each had two hits.

WVU plays Marshall at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in Charleston, then has a huge weekend home series against Texas on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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