Sunday’s Loss One Of Toughest In WVU History
MORGANTOWN,W.Va. — The sun will rise in the morning but the darkness of night surely will remain over this college city.
The skies may be clear come Monday but the streets will be wet, not with the rain that fell the day before, but with tears that were shed.
The West Virginia University Mountaineers lost a baseball game they couldn’t lose.
They put the worst exclamation point possible on a season that should have ended with a smiley face, a year in which they won 38 games, a year when they brought an NCAA Regional to Morgantown for the first time since 1955.
So much success, so much happiness along the way, yet it ended in horror.
They led 9-1 as late as the seventh inning of this NCAA Regional elimination game against Texas A&M yet somehow they spit it up, playing uncharacteristically badly, committing four errors, walking eight batters and serving up a pair — yes, TWO! — grand slam home runs.
The last one by Bryce Blaum came on a 3-2 pitch — the last pitch Sam Kessler would throw this season — with two out.
As the broadcasters might have said “It’s high, it’s deep, it’s …. oh, my goodness”.
The crowd went silent, the Mountaineer players went limp, some dropping to the ground.
If this were a movie it would have been named “The Unnatural”.
Or “Field of Screams.”
And to add to the surreal nature of the moment, they took six hours to reach a decision, complete with a one-hour and 56-minute rain delay.
The final score was 11-10.
It would have hurt less if it were 11-0.
Worse yet, it happened on the Mountaineers’ home field, a field they fought so hard to get to host a regional … yet here they were, due to an absolutely ridiculous NCAA rule, playing the role of visitor.
You earn a national seed and the game to be played in your park, yet you do not have the advantage that comes with batting last because they alternate home team and when both teams have been visitors or home teams in the prior game, they flip a coin.
So much at stake and it comes down to a coin flip.
Time heals all wounds, they say, but the scab left behind by this one will take a long while to go away.
Mountaineers, though, are tough and they are used this this kind of thing.
Need I say Pitt in 2007? Need I say Notre Dame in 1988? Need I say Duke in the 2010 Final Four? Need I say Texas in the Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament in 2006 when Kenton Paulino threw a 3 in on top of Kevin Pittsnogle’s tying 3 with five seconds to play?
And you can throw in the Elite Eight basketball loss to Louisville, too, if you want.
It’s an endless video loop. WVU has won more football games than any team that has not won a national championship. It has not won an NCAA basketball title. It’s women’s soccer team got to an NCAA final but lost.
All of that disappointment … and now this.
This is not to say WVU would have had a shot at winning the NCAA baseball championship this season. They might not even have had enough left in the tank to beat Duke in the day’s second elimination game.
But they would have liked to have tried, especially as they were sitting on that 9-1 advantage.
As you watched it evaporate it tugged at your heart if you were a WVU fan or player.
A pitch here, a pitch there, so close but called a ball. A checked swing that would have been strike three if he’d gotten the call, but it wasn’t there.
We’re not saying in this case that there was any conspiracy after coach Randy Mazey had a run-in with the umpires that got him evicted from the dugout on Friday night. That’s just baseball, a pitch on or off the corner by an inch or so can go either way.
You don’t remember it when you win. When you lose on a two-out, 3-2, grand slam in the bottom of the ninth you remember every little thing, try as you might to forget it. It is there for life.
Well, Mazey has to earn his pay now. He has to nurse his team back to mental health, rebuild its confidence, make them understand that while the day may have been a crushing blow, the season was a success.
The past is just that … passed.
You live for today and covet the future, for even the worst of times serve a purpose. They make you stronger, they make you understand that even when dreams die, you create new ones and the only way to move forward is chase them until you make them come true.