Pennybacker tosses shutout as WLU Baseball scores first win of season

West Liberty versus California on March 16.

The West Liberty Hilltoppers baseball team looked to rebound from a rough start to their season last week as they faced off for a game against California University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday, March 16 and a doubleheader against Glenville State on Sunday, March 20. Coach Eric Burkle’s Toppers started the season 0-12 and were heavy underdogs against both teams.

West Liberty’s first challenge of the week came against the 11-3 California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans at Wild Things Park in Washington, Penn. The Hilltoppers got two innings of work each from pitchers Ian Brady, Logan Grimm, Justin Pennybacker and Justin Studd. The four combined for the best pitching performance of the season to that point for West Liberty, surrendering just two earned runs and six strikeouts. However, California pitcher Jacob McCaskey pitched seven scoreless innings and was followed by two scoreless innings from the bullpen as West Liberty earned just two hits, and were shut out for the first time this season to fall 0-13.

The Hilltoppers returned to action again on Sunday against Glenville State, still searching for their first win of the season. Entering the game, Glenville State sat 12-2 on the season, and were ranked seventh in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region standings. Once again, the Hilltoppers struggled on offense, with just four hits and a pair of runs. However, starting pitcher Justin Pennybacker had a career day on the mound, pitching a seven-inning complete game shutout, allowing just two hits to stun the Pioneers in a huge underdog victory for the Hilltoppers, their first of the season. Pennybacker faced the minimum through three innings before issuing a walk to Glenville’s Mitch Lohr. Glenville State was only able to advance one runner into scoring position all day, as West Liberty won 2-0.

The Toppers’ luck ran out in the second end of the doubleheader, however. The Pioneers struck early and struck often, scoring two in the first inning, three in the second, and another two in the third. Starter Justin Studd was chased from the game after just 1.1 innings, allowing five runs. Ethan Conley didn’t fare much better in relief, allowing two runs in 1.2 innings. Glenville starter Adam Riggleman cruised to a 6.1 inning shutout performance, striking out 11 Hilltoppers with a large cushion. The bullpen finished the job for Riggleman, and West Liberty was shut out for the second time in three games as they fell 10-0.

The 1-14 Hilltoppers will return to action Saturday, March 26 as they take on Davis & Elkins in Elkins, W.Va. For more information about Hilltopper baseball and sports at West Liberty, visit