Lightning Strikes For Longhorns In Win Over WVU
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Lightning struck several times around Monongalia County Ballpark on Friday evening, but the biggest strike came in the form of a huge Texas seventh inning that gave the visiting Longhorns an 11-6 win over West Virginia in the opener of a three-game Big 12 Conference series. UT sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs against a beleaguered WVU relief staff, leaving the home team shocked.
West Virginia got out to a good early start against Texas stater Nolan Kingham, who came into the game with a 5-2 record and 49 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. Braden Zarbnisky snaked a single up the middle to lead off the game, and Brandon White followed with a triple into the left centerfield gap to give the Mountaineers an early 1-0 lead.
Two innings later, Darius Hill and Kyle Gray singled, then Hill scored when Kingham’s pickoff attempt at first sailed down the right field line. With Tyler Doanes at the plate, lightning was detected within the eight-mile limit of the stadium. That started a 51-minute delay, but when play resumed only four batters came to the plate before the bolts struck again, forcing another stoppage of 36 minutes.
Myers appeared to be throwing with the same effectiveness as play resumed in the top of the fourth, but lost Zach Zubia after getting two quick strikes. David Hamilton then lined a hit into the left-centerfield gap, and although Zarbnisky got to the ball, he was unable to stop it from going to the wall. The result was scored as a run-scoring triple, and that proved costly as Ryan Reynolds followed with a hit off the handle into short left to tie the score.
West Virginia’s pattern of scoring in odd innings continued in the fifth, set up by Texas miscues. A walk to Marques Inman and an error on Gray’s bouncer up the middle put the duo on first and third. Doanes inside-outed a double down the right field line to score Inman, and Gonzalez followed with a high hopper that bounced over shortstop David Hamilton’s head to score Doanes and Gray.
The teams traded runs in the sixth. Texas scored a unearned run, while WVU countered with speed. Brandon White singled, stole second easily, then raced around to score on Hill’s RBI single. At that point, the Mountaineers led 6-3, but then the Longhorn batters began to tee off.
Right handed reliever Sam Kessler came on in the seventh in relief of Myers, and quickly ran into trouble. The sophomore righthander had pitched well in his last five outings, allowing just one earned run, but he didn’t have the same control this time out. He hit the first two batters he faced, prompting a visit to the mound from pitching coach Dave Serrano. That did nothing to stem the tide, as the Mountaineers continued to self-inflict wounds. An error by Gray loaded the bases and prompted Kessler’s departure, but Baden Zarbnisky, moving in from left field, could do no better. Four consecutive hits, including a bloop double, and a sacrifice fly pushed across six runs to put the Longhorns in the lead at 9-6. In all, the Horns sent 11 batters to the plate in flipping the game completely in their favor.
In contrast, to West Virginia’s bullpen problems, Texas’ pen did solid work. Reliever Bryce Elder gave up a run on a hit and a walk, but Matt Whelan shut down WVU over four innings to earn the win, fanning seven of the 12 batters he faced. He did not allow a hit and walked just one.
The Longhorns added single runs in the eighth and ninth to provide the final margin.
West Virginia missed several golden chances to score. The Mountaineers stranded White at third with none out in the first, and then a decision to attempt a bunt with the first two batters on and none out in the bottom of the second allowed UT to get a force at third when Andrew Zitel’s sacrifice attempt went right back to the pitcher. A strikeout and a groundout ended that inning, and two more runners were stranded in the third, allowing Texas to stay within striking distance.
Brandon White and Darius Hill had two hits each for WVU, while Gonzalez drove in two runs. That wasn’t nearly enough to keep pace with Texas, especially at the bottom of the lineup. While WVU managed to hold Kody Clemens, who came into the game hitting .350, hitless with three strikeouts, the bottom of the order was devastating. The foursome of David Hamilton, Ryan Reynolds, DJ Petrinsky and Duke Ellis, hitting in the 5-8 slots, combined for 11 hits and nine RBI.
Myers had a quality start, throwing six innings and allowing three runs on eight hits. He struck out six, including two against Clemens, and stranded seven Texas runners. All that was jolted into secondary importance, though, when the Mountaineer bullpen crumbled.
West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey declined to speak with the media or make any of his players available to do so after the game. He huddled with the team briefly in right field before ushering them all into the clubhouse.
Game two of the series is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. Saturday. WVU righty Kade Strowd (4-3, 4.24 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) is scheduled to face Texas righthander Chase Shugart (4-2, 4.12 ERA, 1.29 WHIP).