It was the bottom of the second at Medlar Field when the calls came.
A handful of students were chattering at West Virginia’s freshman pitcher, Tanner Campbell, from their seats directly adjacent the visitors’ dugout.
Campbell, a 6-foot-1 right-hander just off his first career victory, was rattled — not just by the pointed yelling, which rang out loudly over the mostly-empty ball field — but by the adjustments Penn State was actively making to counter his changeup after its success in the first inning.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Centre Daily Times
“He had a good changeup, he had a really good changeup,” said head coach Rob Cooper after the game. “Our guys did a good job of, we call it ‘turning the field’ ... so that we’re not spinning off balls, pulling off balls. And they did that. And the other thing they did was, they didn’t chase anything that started low and that’s something that we’d been doing early in the season.
“You know, I will say this: One, our guys did a good job adjusting and forcing him to pitch a little bit differently, which I think makes a pitcher uncomfortable. ... But then, the ‘Cooperstown’ students ... they do an unbelievable job and our guys just love it. They really feed off of it.”
Those adjustments (and maybe some of the chattering) helped Penn State beat West Virginia 5-4 on Tuesday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The win was Penn State’s third straight, all at home.
“It’s probably as good a win as we’ve had since I’ve been at Penn State,” said Cooper. “And I say that because it was an unbelievable win against a good team, one in which we had to come back a couple times and compete. And more importantly, in a lot of ways we didn’t play great baseball. But it just shows that competitve spirit and having a winning mindset can put you in that position.”
A bloop hit by Conlin Hughes in the bottom of the second plated two runners — the second, Christian Helsel, was aided by a West Virginia throwing error at first base — to start the scoring for the Nittany Lions.
The Mountaineers tacked on three runs of their own in the third.
Helsel called a lofty popup in shallow right but overran it to allow a run. West Virginia’s Jackson Cramer hit a two-run homer to right on left-hander Nick Hedge’s next pitch.
In the bottom of the fourth, sophomore catcher Nick Graham hit an RBI double that plated Jordan Bowersox, and then ran in after a wild pitch to make it 4-3.
“I’m proud of him,” said Cooper of Graham, who has been actively working for more playing time since the start of the season. “He’s a kid that cares and wants to win.”
West Virginia drew even again in the bottom of the fifth when Darius Hill hit an RBI triple to send in KC Huth.
Hedge was pulled after 4 2/3 innings. He gave up four runs, ceded seven hits, walked two and struck out two for a 3.68 ERA.
Dakota Forsyth (1-1) pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief to earn the win as Penn State’s defense went to work, holding the Mountaineers to one hit while striking out one and walking one in 11 batters faced.
Third baseman Jim Haley knocked a triple into right field in the bottom of the seventh and, after a bit of hesitation, sprinted in for the go-ahead run on a deep sacrifice fly to right by Greg Guers.
“I can’t repeat what I said (when he hesitated),” said Cooper. “He messed up, he’ll be the first one to tell you. I told him ‘You almost gave your coach a heart attack.’”
Haley laughed after the game, when the play was brought up.
“I got a little caught up in the moment, and I thought the ball was going over the bleachers,” he said. “I kind of just was going home, then I saw the ball was caught and I went back, then I scored.
“Stupid play on my part ... but we won the game. I’m sure (Cooper) almost died in the dugout.”
Senior Jack Anderson made his 80th career appearance to close the game for Penn State. He worked himself out of trouble with runners on second and third in the top of the eighth and then snagged a bumpy grounder and ran it through first base to make the inning’s final out.
Anderson gave up one hit and struck out pinch hitter Kyle Casserly to finish the game and earn the save, his fifth of the season and match his career high.
Mountaineers pitcher Conner Dotson (3-1) gave up the loss after Penn State’s go-ahead run in the seventh.
Penn State stays home for a 6:30 p.m. matchup against Rhode Island on Wednesday.