Granville, WV - For the second straight night the Black Bears’ attempt at a comeback came up short as they lost to Mahoning Valley 5-4 Thursday night at Monongalia County Ballpark .
The game began smoothly for the Black Bears, as starting pitcher Braxton Ashcraft was perfect through four innings. He breezed through the Scrappers batting order with a devastating curveball and a fastball that topped out at 94 mph.
Black Bears offense was jumpstarted by right fielder Blake Sabol who hit a triple to deep right center field in the inning for his first career hit. Third baseman Jared Triolo, who got his first professional career hit and RBI in the bottom of the first inning, slapped an RBI single that scored right fielder Sabol to give the Black Bears a 1-0 lead.
Triolo picked up his second career hit in third inning as he hit an RBI double that scored center fielder Brett Kinneman to extend West Virginia’s lead to 2-0.
The game took a turn in the top of the fifth inning when Ashcraft struck out leadoff hitter George Valera on a pitch in the dirt, and Valera ran to first. Catcher Ryan Haug commited the team’s only error of the night, as his throw to first sailed into right field and Valera advanced to second.
The Scrappers next batter, Michael Cooper, hit an RBI double to score Valera from second to cut the lead to 2-1. Later in the inning, Henderson De Oleo hit a three-run blast off Ashcraft that sailed over the left field fence to give Mahoning Valley a 4-2 lead.
Ashcraft finished his outing pitching 4 2/3 innings. He gave up four runs, three earned runs, two hits and tallied five strikeouts.
Black Bears manger Drew Saylor said that he was pleased with the young right hander’s outing. “The first four innings were great,” said Saylor. “I think his tempo was good, I thought the way he mixed pitches was exactly what we talked about with our game plan and our strategy.
“At the end of the day we need to be able to hunt the good stuff,” said Saylor. “We have to be able to tell him, innings one through four that’s you. Overall, for me, this is a good learning experience for him.”
The Black Bears tried to answer in the bottom of the inning, but Sabol was thrown out at home on a double by Kinneman when he attempted to score from first base.
The Scrappers would add another run in the sixth inning to extend their lead to 5-2.
West Virginia would start its comeback attempt in the sixth inning when catcher Ryan Haug scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 5-3. Later in the inning, second baseman Dean Lockery scored on a throwing error by the Scrappers second baseman Raynel Delgado that brought the Black Bears within one run.
Unfortunately, one run would be all the closer the Black Bears would get as they dropped two of three games in the series to the Scrappers. With the loss, the Black Bears fell below .500 for the first time this year and sit at 3-4 early in the season.
West Virginia’s home stand continues this weekend and as they host the State College Spikes to Monongalia County Ballpark for a three-game series starting tomorrow night.
First pitch for the Friday and Saturday night games is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Sunday’s game is scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m.