WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The West Virginia University baseball team fought until the end, but it was not enough as WVU’s season came to a close with a 12-8 loss at No. 13 Wake Forest on Sunday night in the 2017 NCAA Tournament Winston-Salem Regional Final.
The Mountaineers finish the year with a 36-26 record after advancing to their 12th NCAA Tournament in program history and first since 1996.
West Virginia advanced to its third NCAA Regional final in team history and went 2-2 in Winston-Salem. The Mountaineers set several school records in NCAA play with a 9-1 victory over Maryland on Friday, and reached the regional final with an 8-5, comeback win over the Terrapins earlier on Saturday. WVU’s two games against the 13th-ranked Demon Deacons (42-18) this weekend marked its 17th and 18th against top-25 opponents, and the Mountaineers went 10-8 in those contests.
Tonight’s game marked the 62nd of the season for the Mountaineers, the most in a single season in program history.
“This team will probably go down in history maybe as one of the best ever for what we accomplished this year,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “I think our guys showed a lot of heart, a lot of tenacity and there are Mountaineer fans everywhere super proud of our team. We made a lot of Mountaineer baseball fans that weren’t Mountaineer baseball fans prior to this year. This is a statement about our program, where it’s going and the direction it’s headed. We’ve got us a baseball program that we can be super proud of. We have a great facility, great administration and great fan support. This is not the end. This is the beginning of a great baseball program.”
Sunday night at David F. Couch Ballpark, both teams scored in each of the first two innings before Wake Forest scored six in the fourth and two in the fifth. West Virginia rallied with three in the bottom of the fourth and two in the eighth, but it was not enough.
Wake Forest got on the board with two runs in the first inning, on back-to-back RBI singles with two outs.
The Mountaineers answered in the bottom of the first on sophomore right fielder Darius Hill’s RBI double to center field that scored sophomore catcher Ivan Gonzalez.
The Demon Deacons responded with two runs in the top of the second inning to make it 4-1, but again WVU answered, on sophomore second baseman Kyle Gray’s two-run home run to right-center.
After a scoreless third inning, Wake Forest scored six runs on five hits in the fourth to break the game open and take a 10-3 lead. The inning included a grand slam by Stuart Fairchild and a two-run home run by Brett Breazeale.
West Virginia again responded though, with three runs on two hits in the fourth inning to make it a 10-6 game. Gonzalez doubled down the left-field line to score the first run, and sophomore third baseman Cole Austin followed with a double down the left-field line to score Gonzalez. A wild pitch advanced Austin to third, and he scored on another wild pitch.
However, Wake Forest got two runs back in the fifth inning, on Fairchild’s second home run of the day.
Freshman right-handed reliever Ryan McDonald got the final two outs of the sixth inning, stranding the bases loaded, and he held the Demon Deacons scoreless in the seventh. Freshman right-hander Cody Wood came in and got the final two outs of the eighth inning.
The Mountaineers cut into the deficit with a pair of runs in the eighth inning. A single and a double opened the frame, before a sophomore pinch-hitter Andrew Zitel walked to load the bases. With two outs, Gonzalez drove in two runs with a double down the left-field line that ricocheted off the wall. That made it a 12-8 game, but the Mountaineers could not get any closer in the inning.
After Wood fired a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, WVU was retired in order in the bottom of the ninth.
NOTES: West Virginia finishes the 2017 season with a 36-26 record … Making its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and first since 1996, WVU is 10-24 all-time at NCAAs and advanced to its third regional final (1961, 1982) … WVU won two games in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, tied for the most in a single postseason in team history (2-2 in 1982, 1996) … Tonight’s game marked the 62nd game of the season, a new program record … West Virginia falls to 3-14 all-time against Wake Forest and 1-7 in the NCAA Tournament, with all but three games coming in North Carolina … Kyle Gray hit his third home run of the season in the second inning and West Virginia’s eighth in four games this weekend.