MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — JJ Wetherholt’s 3 for 3 day helped lift West Virginia to top Canisius 8-1 in its first game at Wagener Field at Monongalia County Ballpark on Wednesday.
Wetherholt recorded a home run and two doubles and accounted for three of the Mountaineers’ runs, including the go-ahead scores in the first inning. That helped freshman starter Gavin Van Kempen (1-0) earn his first career victory.
“That’s not unusual here the last month and a half,” said WVU coach Randy Mazey. “That’s what he’s done nearly every time whenever we’ve played an intrasquad. He’s just performing at a whole different level than everybody else on the field right now.”
Van Kempen’s outing didn’t get off to a picturesque start, however. Jackson Strong, the Golden Griffins’ leadoff hitter, gave Canisius an immediate lead when he homered in the first at-bat of the game. Kenny Dodson followed that up with a single to center field, but was subsequently caught stealing.
“I actually think that was good for us that that guy hit a homer, because had they thrown up four or five zeroes in a row, we might have just thought it was going to be an easy game,” Mazey said. “The fact that he did that might have woken us up a little bit.”
Strong’s homer was the only run allowed by Van Kempen, and the pitcher went on to allow four more hits before he was taken off after 5 1/3 innings.
The Mountaineer bats heated back up in the fifth inning when Wetherholt added his third RBI with a sacrifice fly. In the next frame, Braden Barry knocked his third home run of the season scoring three runs for WVU. Caleb McNeely extended the lead to six runs with an RBI single three at-bats later.
Barry went 3 for 5 for West Virginia, as he combined with Wetherholt to record two-thirds of WVU’s hits in the game. McNeely finished 2 for 3 and drew two walks.
Tom Peltier (0-2) worked for three full innings and allowed two earned runs on three hits while adding three strikeouts.
Wetherholt, however, is by far the story of WVU’s game as he continues his offensive tear to start the season. His eight bases in three at-bats brings his slugging percentage to .911 while he hits at a .489 average.
“He does everything that you try and teach in hitting, he does things that you’re trying to get everybody else to do,” Mazey said. “So what a perfect examples for our guys to watch him hit.”
WVU continues the homestand with a three-game series against Minnesota starting Friday.