WVU Scores Win Over No. 10 Texas Tech In Big 12 Tourney Action
A pair of top 25 teams and two of the best pitchers currently in the college ranks dueled late into the Oklahoma City night in Thursday’s Big 12 Baseball Championship winner’s bracket showdown.
In the end, West Virginia (36-18) was able to make enough plays with its arms, bats and gloves to persevere, 5-1, over Texas Tech at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
With the win over the 10th-ranked Red Raiders (37-16), West Virginia advanced to the winner’s bracket final in Division One of the double-elimination tourney. The No. 20 Mountaineers won’t play again in OKC until Saturday at 10 a.m. They will await the winner of Texas Tech/Kansas, who meet in an elimination game at 4:15 p.m. (ET) Friday. Whoever emerges from the Red Raider/Jayhawk matchup will have to defeat WVU twice on Saturday to keep the Mountaineers from moving on to the Big 12 Championships’ title game, which is slated for 2 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.
Kade Strowd (4-5) is expected to start on the mound for West Virginia on Saturday.
Texas Tech’s starting pitcher on Thursday, redshirt sophomore Caleb Kilian (8-3), was very good, but West Virginia’s Alek Manoah was even better.
“We knew going in with A.K. against Kilian there wasn’t going to be much margin for error. They are both so good, but we were able to do just enough,” said WVU head coach Randy Mazey.
“I’ve had a lot of pitchers in 30 years of coaching, and a lot of really good guys,” added Mazey. “But as far as the whole package goes, Alek Manoah is arguably the best one I’ve had.”
The reigning Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, Manoah (9-3) held the Big 12 regular season champs to just one run while giving up only four hits and striking out 10 in his eight innings of work. He gave way in the ninth to closer Sam Kessler. Manoah’s biggest negative against TTU was that he hit four batters and walked another.
As for Kilian, who is regarded as a top 10 round choice in the upcoming MLB Draft, he fanned nine, walked just two and allowed only two hits. But it wasn’t enough to outduel Manoah, who very well could be a top 10 pick in the first round of the Draft, which begins on June 3.
“I thought Alek Manoah was really good. He kept us off balance,” noted Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock. “I thought Caleb was just as good, but a couple things went their way. That’s baseball. Congratulation to West Virginia; they earned the right to win. Hopefully we’ll see them again.”
Tech struck first on Thursday when Gabe Holt scored on a sacrifice fly in the third inning. WVU vaulted into the lead in the top of the fourth, though. West Virginia’s Brandon White got hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and Darius Hill followed with a triple to plate White. Hill then scored himself on a sac fly off the bat of Marques Inman.
That was the extent of the scoring for either team heading into the eighth.
Kilian didn’t give up a hit or a run in the fifth, sixth or seventh innings, but when he gave way to the Red Raider bullpen in the top of the eighth, the Mountaineer offense finally found success. West Virginia scored two insurance runs in the eighth and one more in the ninth to secure the victory.
As good Manoah was, the Mountaineer defense behind him was every bit as important, particular White, who made a pair of incredible diving catches in centerfield to thwart Tech opportunities.
“The catches Brandon made were incredible,” said Mazey. “They changed the game.”
“All I’m trying to do is get hitters out and then count on Brandon to make two crazy catches. Those plays were unreal,” added Manoah. “We see him do that stuff all that time in practice, so we’re never surprised.”
The win over TTU, which held a No. 8 RPI spot heading into Thursday’s action, will benefit West Virginia’s own RPI, which was No. 14. The Mountaineers are hoping that impresses the NCAA Selection Committee when it assigns the 16 hosting opportunities for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, which starts May 31. West Virginia’s baseball program has hosted just one NCAA Regional in its history, and that came in 1955. WVU’s desire is that Thursday’s victory over a highly-ranked Red Raider squad will help bring another regional to Morgantown.
— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) May 24, 2019