Derek Clark throws another complete game to lead WVU to a series win against No. 17 UCF

Apr. 13—GRANVILLE — A grass cutter in the desert or maybe even a heater salesman in Alaska, the ones tasked with those jobs have it pretty easy.

Probably not as easy as a WVU relief pitcher has it on days that Derek Clark is on the mound.

In those games, action in the Mountaineers' bullpen looks more like kicking back at the beach.

"It sure does appear that way, doesn't it ?" WVU head coach Randy Mazey said Saturday, as the Mountaineers knocked off No. 17 UCF 7-5 inside Kendrick Family Ballpark. "To have that guy in the middle game of the series, it's unbelievable."

BOX SCORE Clark, a transfer from Division II Northwood (Mich.) University, has looked like anything but a Division II kid over his last four starts.

Try this on for size: In Clark's last four games, he's pitched nine innings in all of them.

Three of them were complete-game wins. The only one that wasn't was a loss against Oklahoma State that went 11 innings, in which the game was tied 1-1 after Clark had pitched his nine innings.

All four of Clark's nine-inning performances came against Big 12 teams.

"He's unbelievable, there's not much more I can say about him than that, " said J.J. Wetherholt, who drove in two runs and hit his first home run of the season in the win. "He's a great guy. He's the best teammate on the team, the best teammate I've ever had. He just competes his butt off every single day."

Clark improved to 4-0 on the season, as WVU (21-13, 10-4 Big 12) won its sixth consecutive conference game and maintained its pace with Oklahoma at the top of the Big 12 standings.

He threw 123 pitches in all Saturday, 87 were strikes. And he was better in the later innings than he was at the start of it.

"He does what good starting pitchers do: They get better the longer they're out there, " Mazey said. "His first three innings, he wasn't settled in yet. His last three innings, the seventh, eighth and ninth, were way better than the first, second and third.

"It's hard to measure what that guy has inside his chest. He's just a tremendous leader, a tremendous competitor and a tremendous pitcher."

UCF (21-11, 8-9) took a 2-0 lead in the third inning, runs that came on a wild pitch and an RBI double.

WVU came back to take a 6-3 lead in the sixth off Skylar King's RBI single and Wetherholt's sacrifice fly.

That was all the cushion Clark needed, as his emotions began to rev up in the later innings, screaming into his glove after some of his 10 strikeouts.

"In the game of baseball, you can't panic, " Clark said. "Once you panic, you start getting nervous and you're pretty much beat.

"I just try to keep moving forward, always moving ahead one step at a time. Then you look up and you're in the eighth inning, and it's like, 'Holy crap, let's go finish this game.' "

WVU won the three-game series with the victory, it's fourth Big 12 series win in five attempts. Game 3 is scheduled for noon Sunday.

Along with Wetherholt, Reed Chumley and Sam White also hit solo home runs. King finished with two hits and was also hit by a pitch.

But the day belonged to Clark, a young man that few had ever heard of before this season began.

He is changing that tune, though, each and every time he takes the mound, while also giving WVU relief pitchers a chance to catch up on homework or work on their summer tans.

"That's kind of how I was taught growing up about starters, they get better as the game goes on, " Clark said. "I just try to learn from my mistakes earlier in the game and build off of them."