OKLAHOMA CITY – In its first game of pool play against Kansas at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, the West Virginia University baseball team was defeated, 7-2.
The Jayhawks were led by the efforts of pitcher Thomas Taylor, who tossed 7.1 innings and allowed two runs on four hits. Taylor’s start was highlighted by a stretch in which he retired 18 straight Mountaineers.
“That guy is hard to beat. He is really good. He doesn’t do anything flashy or special,” coach Randy Mazey says. “If you’re a young pitcher and want to watch how to pitch, it’s command of your fastball and throwing your offspeed pitches for strikes. He had a lot of command of his fastball and it’s hard to hit when a guy does that.”
Michael Suiter and Tucker Tharp, who had two RBIs apiece, piloted Kansas’ offense.
The Jayhawks struck first in the contest, as it scored two runs in the opening frame against starter Dan Dierdorff, who tossed seven innings in the contest.
Justin Protacio led off the Jayhawks’ attack with a double that sailed over the head of WVU’s Jacob Rice. Following a successful sacrifice bunt attempt by Kevin Kuntz that ended with a failed attempt at getting Protacio out at third, Suiter drove home the first run of the game with a bunt that Dierdorff was unable to handle near the first base line. Dakota Smith drove in the second run with a single that skipped through the gap on the left side of the infield.
"I felt like I got off the mound alright and 99 out of 100 times, I make both of those plays. That was the one time I didn’t,” Dierdorff says. “I thought I was making good pitches, but those guys were putting good swings on them.”
In the bottom of the second, the Mountaineers plated their first run of the contest, as a single by Alan Filauro scored Billy Fleming to make it 2-1. Fleming found his way aboard by working a walk against Taylor.
In the seventh inning, Kuntz was successful on a suicide squeeze, while Suiter drove home his second runner of the game with a single through the left side to extend the lead to 4-1.
The Jayhawks put two more runs on the board in the eighth inning, as Tharp knocked a double over the head of right fielder Brady Willson to drive home Ka’iana Eldrege and Conner McKay.
In the bottom half of the eighth, WVU threatened, as Bobby Boyd scored on a single by Rice to cut the deficit to 6-2. After a single by Ryan Tuntland loaded the bases, Ryan McBroom came to the plate representing the game-tying run. However, McBroom lined out to second baseman Protacio, who then flipped the ball to the shortstop, Kuntz, for a double play to close out the inning.
Kansas plated its final run of the game in the ninth, as a wild pitch by Corey Holmes allowed Jordan Dreiling to score.
In its second game of pool play at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, WVU takes on TCU on Friday at 5 p.m. EDT. Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Harrison Musgrave will be on the hill for the Mountaineers.
In the season series against the Horned Frogs, Musgrave collected WVU’s lone victory in the three-game set, as he recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts in a complete game gem.
Friday afternoon’s game can be heard on the Mountaineer Sports Network with the Morgantown affiliate WAJR 1440-AM serving as the flagship station.