OKLAHOMA CITY – Despite falling behind 5-0 and committing five errors, the West Virginia University baseball team won in walk-off fashion, 6-5, against Oklahoma State at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
“I have to be quick when I talk right now because these guys, they know me and they know how passionate I can get. I love these guys," coach Randy Mazey says. "What they have done this year, just the grit and grind-it-out mentality, they are relentless and they never give up. That’s a perfect example: down 5-0, we had made five errors and a chance to catch TCU’s record in the middle of the game, but what a turnout.”
Following a leadoff single by Bobby Boyd in the bottom of the tenth, Billy Fleming advanced Boyd on a sacrifice bunt. The sacrifice set the stage for Oklahoma native Jacob Rice, who singled home the game-winning run to keep WVU’s Big 12 title game hopes alive.
“With the tornado here and all the victims, we as a team decided that we are playing this week for a little bit bigger cause. Each individual player was going to try to play for the people here," Mazey says. "I know Brady (Wilson) wrote something on his wristband in honor of the victims. When you are playing for something bigger than yourself, well maybe that’s what made Bobby (Boyd) a little faster from second to home. This team never surprises me. I knew right away that we had a special team here.”
Left-hander John Means, who got the start for the Mountaineers, looked as though he was going to put the Cowboys down in order in the top of the first, but a throwing error by shortstop Michael Constantini allowed Tanner Krietemeier to reach base. The following batter, Randy McCurry, made the Mountaineers pay for their mistake, as he launched a 0-2 pitch into the left field stands for a two-run homer – his third of the season.
OSU tacked on its third run of the game in the fourth inning, when Aaron Cornell scored on a throwing error by third baseman Ryan Tuntland. Cornell reached base via a double that nearly missed being a home run, as it deflected off the outfield wall. Cornell then advanced to third on a wild pitch.
In the sixth inning, OSU struck again and stretched its lead to 5-0. Cornell jumpstarted the inning with a single to left field, which was followed by a catcher’s interference call on Alan Filauro. After a single by Zach Fish that loaded the bases, Filauro committed a throwing error that allowed Cornell to score and Robbie Rea to advance to third. Then, Victor Romero drove Rea home on a sacrifice fly to left field.
The Cowboys’ run support allowed starter Mark Robinette to settle into an early groove. After allowing a triple to the leadoff hitter, Boyd, on the second pitch of the game, the junior right-hander sat down 13 consecutive Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers finally broke through in their half of the sixth inning, as they ended Robinette’s streak and tagged the Cowboys’ starter for five runs.
A single by Tuntland scored Constantini and Rice to make it 5-2. After a mound visit to Robinette by OSU manager Josh Holliday, Ryan McBroom hammered the first pitch he saw for a two-run home run that sailed over the left field wall and out of the ballpark. With the deficit cut to 5-4, Brady Wilson stepped to the plate. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Wilson turned on a fastball and hit his third home run of the season.
The Mountaineers avoided key threats from OSU in the fifth and eighth innings, as they twice escaped bases-loaded situations. In the fifth, Means induced a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat, while reliever Corey Walter escaped the eighth inning with a 4-6-3 double play.
WVU squandered a chance to end the contest in the ninth inning, as McBroom led off with a double, but a fly ball out sandwiched between strikeouts ended the threat.
Means pitched six innings and allowed five runs – all unearned – on six hits.
Walter, who pitched four innings of scoreless relief, got the victory for WVU and evened his record at 5-5.
Cowboys’ reliever Brendan McCurry was tagged with the loss – his third of the season.
In order to advance to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship title game, the Mountaineers need a victory by TCU over Kansas this evening. A victory by the Horned Frogs would create a three-way tie between WVU, TCU and KU. By being the highest seed of the three teams with a 2-1 record, the Mountaineers would advance to the title game against Oklahoma on Sunday at 2 p.m. EDT at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Update: Kansas defeated TCU in the nightcap 4-0 to advance to Sunday's Big 12 Championship game against Oklahoma.