Party’s Here On The West Side: Kearns Brilliant As WVU Busts Baylor In Big 12 Tourney

This Is How We Do It! Isaiah Kearns Uses “West Coast” Style To Toss Complete Game


By Matt Keller

Randy Mazey and Isaiah Kearns are both from Pennsylvania, just about as far east as one can get before hitting an Atlantic coast state. So you’ll pardon both if they’ve identified Kearns’ latest pitching performance as one for the left coast.

Kearns, WVU’s suddenly red-hot freshman, threw a complete game three-hitter in the 11-1, mercy-rule shortened rout of Baylor in the Big 12 Championship opening round on Wednesday. That came on the back of his then career-best tying 5.2 innings pitched in the 2-0 midweek win over Pitt on May 16, when he advanced to 4-0 on the season and came to the staff with a fresh take on his control.

“Sometimes you don’t know what’s going through Kearns’ mind over here,” Mazey said. “After his last game against Pitt, he told coach (Derek) Matlock that he, Isaiah, can pitch up and down. That’s not anything…that’s west coast pitching, up in the zone. We don’t do much of that here.”

Until now. Kearns indeed took that approach, changing locations and working the plate vertically more than in and out against Baylor. The result? Just three hits over the full eight frames, including retiring nine consecutive BU batters after a single in the first inning, and 16 of 17 at one point overall. Kearns allowed just two runners into scoring position, and struck out six while walking none on a svelte 103 pitches.

“Wow. I think that’s all I can say about that one,” Mazey said afterward. “It’s just unbelievable what he did today and kudos to him. He pitched really good in the last outing against Pitt. He threw a shutout that day in our last midweek game.”

In the last two outings, Kearns has worked 13.2 innings, allowing six hits and one run while striking out 13 and walking three. Now 5-0 on the season in eight games started, Kearns’ ERA has dropped to 4.21 with a solid 46:17 ratio of strikeouts to walks. His WHIP stands at 1.19 overall, but just 0.67 over the last two starts. (Story continues below)

“Command the zone, throw strikes and get ahead in counts,” Kearns said of his goals entering the postseason. “I didn’t do that the whole game but, I worked through it and battled it out. The game plan was not to let them hit the ball but, sometimes it happens.”

Yeah, like three times in an entire game. Kearns’ one-run outing is the fewest for Baylor in a 7-3 closing stretch that made them one of the hottest teams in the league entering the Big 12 Championship. The Bears were held to one or zero runs for the eighth time this season, including a 7-1 loss to West Virginia on March 17. But it wasn’t the runs, in particular, that impressed as much as Kearns’ finding comfort with his new style, and showing that in as timely a solid performance as the Mountaineers -already down two weekend starters in Michael Grove and Connor Dotson – have had all season.

“I don’t know if you remember last year but we lost Michael Grove in the first inning of the first game and Chad Donato in the first inning of the second game,” Mazey said of WVU’s Big 12 title game run a season ago. “Relievers had to step up and win those two games for us. We lost a lot of pitchers this season and I’ll bet we lost 200 innings worth of pitching to injury this year. So we asked some guys to step up and fill their spots and they saved our season, they really have. Guys like Kearns, Ryan McDonald, Sam Kessler, guys you’re going to see the rest of this week. But who could ask for anything better than Kearns today.”

The fourth-seeded Mountaineers (33-22) now face eight-seed Oklahoma State (27-25) in the winner’s bracket on Thursday at 5 p.m. eastern after the Cowboys upset top-seed and fourth-ranked Texas Tech 3-0 in the second game Wednesday. WVU is 2-1 against OSU this season, with all three games played in Stillwater.

 

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