West Virginia got an early big hit from freshman Mikey Kluska in the form of a three-run homer, a strong six-plus innings from starting pitcher Jackson Wolf and some clutch relief work from Noah Short and Jacob Watters in taking a 4-3 win over No. 11 Oklahoma State in the first game of a three-game series in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Thursday night.
Kluska, who has shown no early jitters in compiling a .358 average in his first collegiate season, pulled the first pitch of his fourth-inning at-bat over the left field wall, scoring Vince Ippoliti and Hudson Byorick in front of him. That blow, combined with Braden Barry’s manufactured run one inning earlier, gave the Mountaineers (11-9, 3-1) a 4-1 lead.
Wolf yielded a single and an RBI double in the first inning, but then retired seven Cowboys in a row, and later set down another nine consecutively before running into trouble in the bottom of the seventh. A walk and a pair of hits loaded the bases, ending his outing at 6.1 innings. OSU (16-7-1, 4-3) produced a pair of runs on two singles off Zach Ottinger, but then Short came to the rescue to get a strikeout, and Watters closed out the threat with another K.
That ended the scoring, but not the drama. State loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but a nifty 6-4-3 double play kept the home team off the scoreboard. An OSU tiple in the bottom of the ninth put the tying run 90 feet away, and a walk placed the winning run aboard, but Watters again bore down, getting his fourth strikeout of the evening to get his second save of the season.
Wolf (3-2) allowed three earned runs on five hits, but struck out eight while walking just one. Watters went 2.1 innings and allowed five baserunners on three hits and two walks, but countered with his four strikeouts.
Kluska had two hits, as did Byorick, but the Mountaineers totaled just six hits in all. Oklahoma State starter Bryce Osmond (2-2) pitched well enough to win, going six innings in which he gave up five hits and three walks, but the one pitch to Kluska proved to be the difference.
Barry put WVU on the board in the third with a single, a stolen base and a dash home on a throwing error.
The two teams meet again on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET. WVU has not yet announced an expected starting pitcher.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
WVU got the win without a hit from the top third of the batting order. Tyler Doanes, Matt McCormick and Victor Scott were hitless in 11 plate appearances, although Scott did earn one walk.
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Head coach Randy Mazey rejoined the team on the road trip, coaching the squad for the first time since the win over Bryant on Feb. 28.
“I want to first thank my assistant coaches, staff, administration and players for their continued focus and support during my time away,” MAzey said in a statement released prior to the game. “My family and I have sincerely appreciated everyone’s thoughts and concerns during this trying time. Your expression of care means more than you’ll ever know, and Amanda and I will never forget the support we have received. I will be coaching this weekend at Oklahoma State, returning to a team that I care about so deeply. I’m very proud of the way this team has played through such adversity, and I am really looking forward to being back with them.”
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OSU produced six hits with runners on, with three of those coming with runners in scoring position. Such numbers will typically account for more than three runs, but West Virginia combined a good showing against leadoff batters (1-9) and big outs in key situations to limit OSU’s damage.