Grit And Speed Highlight WVU’s Win Over Texas Tech
Sometimes, no matter how good you are in sports, you have to work for success. Those willing and able to do so are the ones who reach greatness.
You can put West Virginia right-hander Alek Manoah on the rigtt side of the ledger as he had to work hard to beat Texas Tech, 5-1, with a whole lot of defensive help from WVU’s Secretary of Defense, Brandon White.
The last time Manoah faced the No. 6 Red Raiders, the top seed in the Big 12 Championship, was in Morgantown in mid-season and he came armed with everything in his arsenal, all of it built around a 95-mile-an-hour fast ball and nasty slider with a bite like a rattlesnake.
The result was a shutout of the top offensive team in the league, a team that came into Thursday’s meeting with the Mountaineers with a .412 on base percentage and with the first six hitters in the lineup hitting over .300.
That midseason game was not just a shutout, though. There were only four hits allowed with 15 strikeouts and no walks. It really was the game that put him in the national spotlight, leading to Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and to an endless stream of major league scouts zeroing in on him as perhaps a Top 10 draft choice.
This time, though, it was different. He had use his brain, and his guile and, mostly, his guts as well as his arm, surviving eight innings while allowing four hits, hitting four batters, walking one and striking out 10 before turning the game over after throwing 129 pitches to Sam Kessler.
Before the game, his coach, Randy Mazey noted that everything had put Manoah in a perfect position to pitch at his best.
“He should be well rested. He had a full bullpen the other day. Everything lined up for him to have a good game,” Mazey said.
If only things worked the way they should, but Manoah was hardly at his best.
He pitched into trouble time after time. His fast ball started off at less than the normal 95, his slider was unreliable … but he escaped time and again.
So it went, inning after inning. Texas Tech had no shortage of baserunners, nine of them in the first six innings, which meant that Mahoah was in need of some help … and this Mountaineer team that has a knack of finding ways to win gave it to him via the defense.
Fortunately, he has a Spiderman of a defender in centerfield in White.
Called “the best centerfielder I have coached in 30 years” by Mazey on Wednesday, he first made his presence felt in the second inning. Cody Masters singled and stole second but when catcher Ivan Rodriguez overthrew Masters tried for third.
That proved to be a mistake as White made as good a throw as you will ever see to cut him down.
But as good as that was, you hadn’t seen nothing yet for White came up with a sixth inning miracle. With two out and a runner at third, Kurt Wilson sent one into no-man’s land in right-centerield, except it turned into one man’s land as White laid himself out vertically and, fully extended, made what probably was the best catch of his career.
In truth, it might wind up being the best catch of his career when he retires … and he wasn’t through yet.
Seventh inning, with one on and one out, the fleet Holt hit what seemed to be a certain hit only to have White make yet another diving grab. Had the ball gotten past him the tying run would have scored and Holt probably would have made third base.
But nothing gets by White in center …. and so it was Manoah maintained a one-run lead to protect … and protect it he did.
It would soon grow to 5-1 with Tucker and — yes — White driving in runs in the eighth inning and Ivan Gonzalez doubling home another insurance run in the ninth.
Sam Kessler closed it out and WVU goes into a much-needed day off on Friday before returning to the field Saturday.