GRANVILLE, W.Va. — Shortly before the first pitch of Wednesday’s Backyard Brawl, the sun peaked out from behind the clouds that loomed over the diamond. It did not shine for long, but it was enough to charge starting pitcher Carson Estridge’s solar battery.
Estridge struck out five Panthers for his first five recorded outs Wednesday, seeing him fan seven hitters and earning the win in No. 12 West Virginia’s (34-11, 11-4 Big 12) 10-0 victory over Pitt (20-22, 8-11 ACC) after six-and-a-half innings. The Mountaineers extended their winning streak to nine games, which matches their season-high from March. West Virginia has also outscored Pitt 19-0 dating back to the third inning of April’s matchup.
Estridge’s seven strikeouts and four innings-pitched both mark career-highs for the freshman hurler. By allowing just two hits, he matched his career-low in games where he pitched at least two full innings. In his last start, also against Pitt, he struck out six batters, but also surrendered four earned runs while earning a no-decision.
“The big thing about last outing was my fastball placement,” Estridge said. “Today, I was able to locate my fastballs for strikes a lot better. It’s not that last (start) I was throwing balls, but instead of being an outside strike, (my fastball) was more down the middle, so they were just able to piece-up more fastballs (in April).”
Both Estridge and head coach Randy Mazey said that Estridge is going through endurance issues stemming from an early-season shoulder injury, and they are looking forward to seeing him throw more innings per outing.
“(Estridge) is super coachable,” Mazey said. “You talk to him and he listens. He does things that you ask him to do, and if he does that, he will have success, and that will breed confidence. He’s got every reason to go home tonight feeling really good about how this game went.”
Offensively, the Mountaineers tallied at least one run in five of the six frames. Landon Wallace plated three Mountaineer runs himself in his first two at-bats. An RBI-single scored J.J. Wetherholt in the first, and a two-RBI base-hit extended the Mountaineer-lead to 4-0. Between Wallace’s first two hits was a line-drive, solo home run that nearly scraped the top of the left-field wall from right fielder Caleb McNeely for his 11th of the season.
Wetherholt, last week’s Big 12 Player of the Week, continued his offensive tear with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate. His three-run blast in the fourth inning cracked things open and extended WVU’s lead to 7-0. He also stole a base in the first. He raises his conference-leading batting average to .470.
“(With) the season I’m having, you can kind of get (a) solo-mindset (where) you only care about yourself,” Wetherholt said. “And if it’s in the case (that) the team isn’t doing well, that’s even more enhanced. But with how good the guys are playing, like, I’m playing for them, I’m playing for everybody. I don’t care how I do it, I just want to help the team win. That’s, like, the biggest thing.”
Wallace added his fourth RBI of the evening with an infield single that scored Tevin Tucker. He finished with a 3-for-4 showing. Braden Barry extended his hitting streak to six games with an RBI single to follow Wallace in the sixth. Ellis Garcia’s RBI double in the sixth ended the game prematurely.
Reliever Gavin Van Kempen, another freshman, entered in the fifth inning for Estridge on the mound, and he was equally as impressive. Van Kempen struck out three and allowed no runs while suffering just two baserunners. His ERA drops to 4.32.
WVU fans also set a regular season attendance record Wednesday with 4,070 fans attending during a rainstorm.
Mazey and company will welcome Oklahoma (25-20, 10-9 Big 12) for a home-series this weekend at Monongalia County Ballpark.