West Virginia Baseball Team Drops Regular Season Finale to Baylor
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –West Virginia had several gift-wrapped chances in its final baseball game of the regular season, but it just couldn’t capitalize on those opportunities and ultimately fell to Baylor 6-2 Saturday afternoon at the Monongalia County Ballpark.
“We lost this game in the second and third innings,” stated WVU head coach Randy Mazey, whose team left a total of 10 runners on base Saturday. “We had the bases loaded in the second inning with no out and didn’t score, and then had runners on second and third with no outs the next inning and didn’t score
“That’s where the game was pretty much decided.”
WVU now heads to the Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City this coming week. It will begin play on Wednesday, May 23. The complete Big 12 Tournament bracket will be announced later Saturday when all league teams conclude their regular seasons. WVU (27-25) will finish either seventh or eighth in league play, and will face either Oklahoma State or Texas in its first tourney game on Wednesday. If West Virginia meets Oklahoma State, the Cowboys will likely be slotted in an evening game on Wednesday in order to boost attendance for the double-elimination event’s opening day.
Baylor’s four pitchers walked five Mountaineers Saturday but did limit the home team to just seven hits. Darius Hill was the only WVU player with multiple hits, as the junior rightfielder was 2-for-5. BU’s Alex Phillips was credited with the victory, as he came on to work three innings in relief in place of starter Tyler Thomas. Between them, the Bears’ pitchers had 11 strikeouts and only allowed one earned run. Baylor won two of the three games in the weekend series, and limited West Virginia to a total of just five runs, only three of which were earned, in those three contests.
Saturday’s game started in unusual fashion for WVU, as B.J. Myers did something that hadn’t been done in recent memory, serving as the Mountaineers’ starting pitcher twice in the same weekend. The senior from Flower Mound, Texas, also got the start on Thursday as part of Mazey’s recently-devised platoon pitching strategy, going three innings in that 2-1 WVU win. On top of that, Myers was West Virginia’s starting DH on Friday. And if all that wasn’t enough, Myers and pitcher Shane Ennis, who are the only two seniors on this year’s West Virginia baseball team, also went through their own personal graduation ceremony prior to the game, complete with caps and gowns. The pair had been on the road participating in a three-game series at TCU last weekend, when WVU held its traditional graduation ceremony.
When the game began, the Mountaineers had multiple runners on base in each of the first three innings, but couldn’t score in any of those instances.
Thomas walked two WVU batters in the second. Then the Baylor freshman pitcher bounced a throw to third on a sacrifice bunt attempt by West Virginia DH Andrew Zitel, and all the baserunners were safe. But the Bears erased two of them on a subsequent double play that forced out the runner at home, and then a quick relay that cut down Jimmy Galusky at first. A strikeout of Braden Zarbnisky followed, and BU wiggled out of a huge jam without allowing a run.
The Bears immediately followed with a run of their own. T.J. Lofton singled and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Richard Cunningham drove Lofton home with a base hit to right center. BU took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the third.
West Virginia threatened again in its half of the inning. A walk to Brandon White was followed by a double into the leftfield corner by Hill, giving WVU a pair of baserunners for the third straight inning. But Thomas again squashed the uprising with three straight outs in the heart of the Mountaineer order.
As part of Mazey’s pitching platoon strategy, Alek Manoah came on to pitch for WVU at the start of the fourth. But after a walk, Baylor touched up the sophomore righthander with a pair of doubles and a single, and BU’s lead grew to 4-0. Manoah didn’t make it out of the inning, as he was replaced by Shane Ennis, who got the final out. Still, West Virginia went to the bottom of the fourth staring at a four-run hole.
A fifth walk by Thomas, this one to WVU catcher Ivan Gonzalez to start the fourth inning, ended the day for Baylor’s starting pitcher, despite the fact he had not given up a run through the first three innings. Phillips came on in relief for the Bears, and he quickly disposed of two Mountaineers. But Zarbnisky slapped a base hit down the leftfield line that plated Gonzalez. The WVU outfielder advanced all the way to third on a fielding error by the Bears’ Raguse, and the Mountaineer junior subsequently scored when a White line drive bounced into left center. The BU lead was cut in half, 4-2, as the fourth inning ended.
The offensive pace slowed to a crawl, though, through the middle innings. Each team had a few baserunners, but neither could push across another run for the next four innings.
Baylor broke out of its doldrums in the top of the ninth, adding a couple of insurance runs. When West Virginia had no answer in the bottom of the inning, the Bears (32-19) left Morgantown having won two of the three games in the final series of the regular season.
Both BU and WVU now head to Oklahoma City’s Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark for the Big 12’s double-elimination tournament, which will take place May 23-27.
“We’ve always played well in Oklahoma City,” noted Mazey, whose team advanced to the tournament championship game in 2016 and to the semifinal round in 2017. “I don’t see any reason we’re not going to do it again.
“I’m going to go down there with a ton of confidence, and I know our guys are, too.”