It was a tale of two homecomings Tuesday night at Appalachian Power Park.
Taylor Davis coaxed a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the top of the eighth as Morehead State edged West Virginia University 6-5 in the third annual Mountaineer Diamond Classic. A paid crowd of 667 attended the non-conference matchup.
Eagles coach Jay Sorg, whose team brought a 4-19 record into the game, spent part of the 1996 season in Charleston with the Alley Cats after the Cincinnati Reds made him a 15th-round draft pick in 1994.
"It's a nice win for us,'' Sorg said. "What I was happy with was I thought our team played tough. We faced some adversity and I thought we battled all the way through. When they answered we were able to answer back, and that was the big difference in the game.''
WVU senior shortstop Grant Buckner, an Elkview native and former Herbert Hoover High School standout, committed three errors and went 1-for-4.
"Definitely not the game you want to come back home and play,'' he said. "You've got to give [Morehead State] credit. They took advantage of my mistakes.
"Even though it's not the game I wanted, I had all my friends and family here and this close to home probably for the last time ever wearing a West Virginia uniform. It was fun though.''
WVU's Matt Malloy opened the bottom of the ninth with a walk and was sacrificed to second on Mark Dvoroznak's bunt. Brady Wilson flied to right field and Justin McDavid struck out to end the game.
The Mountaineers had a runner on third with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, but Morehead's Luke Bainer tracked down T.J. Kuban's slicing line drive to end the inning.
WVU could have had runners at first and second with none out earlier in the eighth as Buckner led off with a single and designated hitter Jeremy Gum, who finished with two RBIs, was hit by a pitch with none out. The home plate umpire, however, ruled Gum didn't attempt to get out of the way of the pitch and called it a ball. Gum eventually hit a popup that Morehead shortstop Austin Haney dropped, but recovered in time to force Buckner at second. WVU's Ryan McBroom and T.J. Kuban grounded out and flied out, respectively, to end the inning.
"We've played hard all year, but we just didn't execute,'' said WVU coach Greg Van Zant, a Williamson native who has 11 players from West Virginia on the 33-man roster. "The umpiring did not affect the outcome of the game. There were other calls that we got that [Morehead State] didn't get. It's not always our fault. You've got to give credit to Morehead State.''
Eagles starter Noah Smallwood, who entered the contest with an 0-2 record and a 10.40 ERA, held the Mountaineers hitless until McBroom's leadoff single in the fifth.
Smallwood, a left-hander who didn't figure into the decision, allowed five runs (three earned) on four hits in 61/3 innings. WVU finished with six hits.