Saturday, December 14, 2019 Elyria 36°

College Sports

College Baseball: Elyria's Marques Inman driving force as West Virginia reaches NCAA Tournament, set to host regional

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    West Virginia's Marques Inman, an Elyria graduate, makes contact during the season.



West Virginia is about to host an NCAA Tournament baseball game for the first time since 1955, and Marques Inman has been a focal point of the team’s success.

Despite losing in the Big 12 Tournament championship, the Mountaineers received an at-large bid to the Big Dance and the 15th overall seed, so they will host one of 16 double-elimination regional tournaments beginning Friday at 4 p.m. The Mountaineers will take on Fordham at 8 p.m. after Texas A&M and Duke play in the opening game.

Inman, an Elyria graduate, credits chemistry for the team’s success.

“It’s our mentality,” he said. “We pull for each other all the time. We want to see each other succeed and be the best version of ourselves as we possibly can. I think everyone pushes each other to a different level, which helps us in the long run.”

The redshirt junior had to work his way back from a torn ACL that cost him his sophomore season in 2017. Last year, he bounced back to hit .319 with six home runs, 40 RBIs with 20 doubles. This year, he has a .274 average, nine home runs, 37 RBIs, seven doubles and 24 runs.

He spent the offseason getting stronger defensively at first base, working on routine plays and fielding throws.

“I’m just trying to come through for my teammates,” Inman said. “This is the closest team we’ve had since I’ve been at West Virginia, so we just know that we all have each other’s backs. I just try to come through for them as best I could.”

Inman has come up big for West Virginia throughout the season, regularly batting cleanup and playing first. He went 4-for-19 with four RBIs, two doubles and two runs in five Big 12 Tournament games — three against top-seeded Texas Tech, whom the Mountaineers beat twice in both the tournament and the regular season.

However, his biggest moment came in the regular season against Kansas. Inman was down in the count 1-2 and looking to stay alive. He succeeded and more when he sent a fastball 424 feet to center field in the ninth for a 1-0 walk-off win. It was his first collegiate walk-off home run.

“It’s one of the best moments I’ve had in college,” Inman said. “I was just trying to make sure I didn’t strike out, to be honest. I just wanted to come through for my teammates. I was just trying to put a swing on it and see what would happen, and it just happened to go over the fence.”

West Virginia is making its 13th NCAA Tournament appearance, the first since 2017, and enters with a 37-20 record. Its opening opponent, Fordham, is the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament champion and making its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance — the first since 1998. The Rams bring a 38-22 record to the postseason.

After emerging as one of the top teams from a tough conference, Inman believes the Mountaineers are up to the challenge of advancing to super regionals, and beyond.

“It’s the same way we’ve been approaching the regular season, taking one game at a time and trying our best every day,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for. If we do everything we need to do, we know the outcome should be good.”

Contact Chris Sweeney at (440) 329-7135 or Follow him @CSweeneyCT on Twitter.

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