West Virginia Downs Baylor With Unique Pitching Plan
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With a unique pitching plan, West Virginia gutted out a 2-1 win over Baylor in the opener of the final series of the 2018 Big 12 regular season on Thursday night at Monongalia County Ballpark. Using six pitchers for predetermined stints, head coach Randy Mazey followed a schedule that was laid out in advance to maximize strengths while limiting a season-long weakness.
“We had a meeting yesterday and told everyone how many innings they were going to throw and in what order, and then if anything went wrong we had a group of firemen down there (in the bullpen) to come put the fire out. The plan worked to perfection.”
While it looked as if the setup was designed to get pitchers work while getting them prepared for the upcoming Big 12 Championship, Mazey said emphatically that was not the case.
“It was all about trying to win this game. We had 49 games this year and only two where the starting pitcher got us into the seventh inning. Trying to extend guys, it took us 49 games to figure out that wasn’t working. So we said we are going to throw our best guys in shorter stints, and try to pitch them twice on the weekend. So all the guys that pitched tonight, they can pitch again on Saturday, and hopefully with the same result.”
The plan, as Mazey said, was flawless. Starting with BJ Myers, who yielded just one run in three innings, the Mountaineers (27-23 overall, 9-13 Big 12) did give up eight hits and several hard hit balls, but manged to come up with big pitches in key situations to keep the Bears off the scoreboard after they scored one run in the second. Alek Manoah, who pitched the fourth and fifth frames, stranded a pair of Bears in the top of the fifth, and Zach Reid got a fly ball out with two on in the seventh to strand another duo. That one-batter appearance, covering four pitches, was enough to get Reid the win, as the Mountaineers scored the go ahead run on Tyler Doanes sacrifice fly to right field in the bottom of the inning.
Braden Zarbnisky then took the ball for the final two Baylor at-bats, and firing fastballs with good location, struck out the side in the eighth around a ground rule double that Darius Hill lost in the lights. With another two Ks in the ninth, Zarbnisky fanned five of the eight batters he faced in securing the victory against the hottest team in the Big 12.
Also key in the game was the control exhibited by a staff that had issued 232 walks to date. WVU issued no free passes in the contest, and rarely came close to doing so.
“If we don’t walk guys, we win ten more games this year,” Mazey said. “If we just walk them once or twice, the whole game may have changed. We only went to three ball counts four times tonight. That’s pretty impressive for our guys.”
WVU managed a run in the third when Brandon White singled home Braden Zarbnisky, who had sliced a triple down the right field line. The ensuing 1-1 tie held up over the next three innings before the Mountaineers scratched out the run courtesy of a Baylor error in the seventh. Marques Inman reaced second base when his grounder to Baylor shortstop Nick Loftin was bobbled, and the hurried throw sailed into the stands. Inman advanced to third on Kyle Gray’s blooper to short center, then came home on Doanes’ fly ball to right.
Baylor (30-19 overall, 11-11 Big 12) out hit WVU 8-5 but left nine on base as opposed to West Virginia’s two. Zarbnisky picked up the save with his two inning stint, while Baylor starter Cody Bradford was the hard luck loser. Bradford gave up just four hits and two runs (one earned) in seven innings of work, and struck out five while walking two.
White had two of WVU’s five hits and an RBI. Loftin had three hits and Shea Langeliers two for the Bears, who had come in with a 16-2 record over their last 18 games.
The two teams are scheduled to meet again Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. The game was originally set for 6:30, but was moved up to try to avoid potential rain in the forecast. Righthander Isaiah Kearns (3-3, 4.46 ERA) is set to get the ball for the Mountaineers, while Haden Kettler (6-4, 3.99 ERA) will oppose for the Bears.
West Virginia improved to 27-23 on the season and 9-13 in Big 12 play … WVU improves to 10-7 all-time against Baylor and 5-1 at home, while the Mountaineers have won five of the last six and seven of the last nine … West Virginia is 15-6 at home … Zach Reid earned the win, the first of his career … Braden Zarbnisky picked up the save, his first of the year and seventh of his career … Darius Hill’s career-long and team-leading reached-base streak was snapped at 25 games.