Strowd, Inman Exemplify WVU Baseball Approach
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s win over Oklahoma’s baseball team on Sunday, played in conditions that befitted a December match-up between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, highlighted one of the core components of the WVU baseball program – toughness and the ability to fight through adversity.
It wasn’t just beating the temperatures in the 30s, the icy pellets that hailed down from the sky or the at-times whipping winds, although that was difficult enough. It wasn’t just beating the Sooners, a talented team ranked in the top 20, to take the 2-1 series win. It was, for pitcher Kade Strowd, fighting through a start that included eight walks while allowing just one run. For first baseman Marques Inman, it was staying focused when every foul or non-square hit of the ball can send ringing vibrations up the bat. It’s staying “locked in” – the term of choice these days for focus – in situations and against players who want to win just as badly as you do.
“It really is about being tough,” Strowd said after seeing OU runners in scoring position in each of the five innings he pitched. “I guess the mindset kind of changes when you have a guy on third. He’s 90 feet away and the biggest thing is for him not to score. It really just comes down to how bad you want to get out of this inning. How bad do you want that guy to not score?”
That has been a theme for Strowd, who, while leading the team in walks allowed (28 through seven starts), has yielded just one more earned run that fellow starter Jackson Wolf and three more than Friday starter Alek Manoah. Opponents are hitting only .189 against him.
“His two biggest wins of the year – this one and against Oregon State – this one he walked eight and that one he walked nine. That’s not the way you draw it up,” West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey said. “It’s a testament to what he does. He makes great pitches when he has to. It was not easy on a day like this. The ball is slick, your hands are cold. You just have to grind. He never gets rattled, he never gets panicked. That helps him in situations like this.”
Inman was involved in all three of WVU’s early runs on Sunday, with the highlight a two-run homer into the OU bullpen on a day when the ball obviously wasn’t flying well in the cold air. Getting ahead in the count, he got the pitch he liked against Sooner starter Levi Prater, who came into the game with an 0.98 ERA. Five batters later, Prater, who led the league with five wins, was out of the contest, providing another boost to the Mountaineer dugout.
As good as Inman’s blast and three RBI were, it was a nice stop in the field that meant more to Inman. After a one-out double in the fifth, OU’s Brad Lindsly grounded sharply toward the right side. Inman scooped up the ball and won the race to the bag to record the second out of the inning. Another Strowd walk followed, but true to form, the gritty righthander got another strikeout to end the frame. Without Inman’s play, Oklahoma would have added a run, and perhaps more.
“Definitely the defensive side,” Inman said of which play resonated with him the most. “Those are the plays that matter. The home run is nice but defense wins games.”
Up next, WVU hosts Pitt on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Monongalia County Ballpark in 196th meeting between the two teams. West Virginia holds a 107-88 lead in the all-time series and has won four in a row and nine of the last 12 meetings.