The West Virginia University baseball team evened its final series of the regular season at 1-1 with a 4-3 victory at Texas on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Mountaineers (32-21, 12-11 Big 12) secured at least fourth place in the conference and next week’s Big 12 Championship. With one game remaining in the regular season, WVU also ensures itself of never losing more than two games in a row throughout the regular season.
“That was the epitome of grinding out a win,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “Offensively, defensively, on the mound. Some unbelievable efforts by some Mountaineers today to just suck it up and give it all you’ve got, leave it all on the field. Everybody in the lineup contributed to this win.”
West Virginia took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning and answered with runs in the sixth and seventh innings after the Longhorns (33-20, 10-12 Big 12) had tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth. Both teams scored in the ninth inning, but a great defensive play by sophomore third baseman Cole Austin ended the game and prevented the home team from tying the game.
Freshman right-handed starter Alek Manoah, senior reliever Jackson Sigman and sophomore reliever Braden Zarbnisky held Texas to seven hits and stranded nine Longhorns on base. Zabnisky recorded the final nine outs to pick up his team-leading sixth save of the year.
Sigman entered the game in the fifth inning after UT had tied the game, but stranded the bases loaded. An Austin native, Sigman earned his team-high-tying fifth win while making his program-record 32nd appearance of the year. In 1.2 innings, he allowed one run on two hits with two strikeouts and three walks.
Offensively, sophomore right fielder Darius Hill and freshman catcher Chase Illig both had two RBIs. Illig and Zarbnisky led the team with two hits. Junior left fielder Kyle Davis also had a hit, extending his team-high reached-base streak to 22 games.
The Mountaineers got on the board with a run in the second inning. Senior first baseman Jackson Cramer singled and stole second. After a walk put two runners on, Illig drove in his first run of the game with a double down the left-field line to give WVU a 1-0 lead.
Just like in the first inning, Manoah got a double play to help him get out of the bottom of the second.
Manoah pitched a 1-2-3 third inning and stranded two runners in the fourth.
Texas tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth on an RBI single. The leadoff runner reached on a hit-by-pitch, advanced to second on a balk and reached third on a wild pitch before scoring with one out.
Sigman relieved Manoah and got the final two outs in the fifth, stranding the bases loaded.
West Virginia answered right back though, with a run in the top of the sixth inning. The rally began with two outs, when Zarbnisky singled through the left side. He then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Illig’s single up the middle.
Sigman stranded two more runners in the sixth before WVU added a run in the seventh to make it 3-1.
The inning began with a leadoff walk by sophomore second baseman Kyle Gray. With Gray on third after a stolen base and a groundout, a perfectly-executed suicide squeeze bunt by Hill scored Gray.
Texas responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the seventh to cut the WVU lead back to one, at 3-2. After a leadoff walk, Zarbnisky relieved Sigman on the mound. A walk and a sacrifice bunt followed to put runners at second and third, and a fielder’s choice scored the lone run.
After a scoreless eighth inning, the Mountaineers added a key insurance run to take a 4-2 lead in the ninth. Freshman center fielder Brandon White led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second and reached third on a groundout. White scored what proved to be the eventual winning run on a double by Hill.
The Longhorns attempted to rally in the ninth, and cut the WVU lead to 4-3. A one-out double was followed by a two-out RBI single. Travis Jones followed with a hard-hit ground ball down the left-field line, but Austin dove to his right and threw out Jones to get the final out of the game.
In 3.0 innings, Zarbnisky allowed one run on two hits with a strikeout and a walk.
The series in Austin, and the regular season, concludes on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT.
NOTES: West Virginia improves to 32-21 on the season, 12-11 in Big 12 play and 15-13 on the road … With a 12-11 Big 12 record and one game remaining, the Mountaineers will finish no worse than fourth in the conference standings … With a third-inning single, Kyle Davis extended his team-leading reached-base streak to 23 games … Jackson Sigman earned his team-high-tying fifth win of the season and made his school-record 32nd appearance of the season … Braden Zarbnisky got the final nine outs and earned his team-leading sixth save of the year.