WVU Comes Up Short In Loss To Baylor
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s scheduled pitching phalanx produced respectable results on Friday afternoon against Baylor, but a couple of critical breakdowns, coupled with an inability to hit with runners on, led to a 4-1 loss to the Bears.
The game started in similar fashion to the Thursday night contest, which the Mountaineers took by a 2-1 score. Baylor (31-19 overall, 12-11 Big 12) broke out in the top of the second with a run fashioned from a single, a sacrifice bunt, a groundout and another single. It took WVU two innings to respond this time, but they did so on the strength of Ivan Gonzalez two-out RBI single up the middle, which drove home Darius Hill.
In the fifth, West Virginia’s quick-tempo rotation hit its first snag. Kade Strowd, who has struggled in recent outings, allowed a pair of singles, then Davis Wendzel narrowly missed a three-run homer with a blast off the wall to deep centerfield. As it was, the rocket scored two, putting the Bears back on top at 3-1.
WVU then ran through all of its available “firemen” — the pitchers designated by head coach Randy Mazey to backstop the rotation of hurlers scheduled to see action. The Mountaineers used ten pitchers overall, including four in the seventh frame alone. For the most part, the strategy continued to be successful, but seven walks (as opposed to none on Thursday) gave Baylor extra chances at the plate, and set up its final run in the eighth inning.
While the pitching wasn’t awful, Mazey was in no mood to be generous.
“The pitching plan worked to perfection yesterday, but not too many guys after [starter Isaiah] Kearns threw all that well [today],” he said. “When you walk seven guys, you aren’t going to win, unless you score ten runs.”
The Mountaineers would have needed just half that number to get a victory on the cloudy, overcast day, but productivity with runners on base was also minimal. WVU (27-24 overall, 9-14 Big 12) left two on in the third, fifth, sixth and ninth innings, and just one big hit in any of those circumstances could have changed the outcome. Those didn’t occur, however, as West Virginia had no extra base hits in the game, while Baylor had just one.
“We had chances that we just didn’t take advantage of,” Mazey lamented. “This offense always finds a way to get back into the game. Our offense is good enough to do that. We just didn’t get the big hits we needed.”
Kearns went three innings, giving up three hits and one run. Jackson Wolf hurled a scoreless fourth. Strowd was tagged with the loss, as he was charged with two earned runs on four hits in 1.1 innings. Zach Reid recorded an out against the only batter he faced, while Cody Wood got five outs against the six hitters he faced.
While holding the strong Baylor batting lineup to just four runs didn’t please Mazey, he’s not going to back down from the new pitching schema.
“It’s going to be deja vu from [Thursday]. Hopefully those guys will come out and give us the same quality innings they gave us yesterday, and if they do we have a chance to win.”
Baylor starter Hayden Kettler tied West Virginia up through five innings by getting the Mountaineers to chase pitches down in the strike zone. While throwing only 46 strikes in 77 pitches, he walked just two, and benefited from a double play in addition to striking out the final hitters in both the fourth and fifth innings with runners on. Relievers Kyle Hill, Drew Robinson and Troy Montemayor were very effective, with just two hits and a pair of walks marring four innings of shutout work in which they struck out a combined six Mountaineer batters.
“Their bullpen is their strength,” Mazey observed. “When we got into the pen, that wasn’t to our advantage.”
WVU and Baylor will again challenge the weather on Saturday for the finale of the three-game set and the close of the regular season. Rain is forecast for much of the day, threatening the noon scheduled start. BJ Myers, who started Thursday’s game, is set to do the same for the Mountaineers on Saturday, and is expected to throw three innings. Baylor will counter with lefty Tyler Thomas, who shows a 3-2 record and a sparkling 2.38 ERA in 11 starts and 13 overall appearances. He is vulnerable to walks, having issued 42 in 45.1 innings. It will be Senior Day for Myers and Shane Ennis, who will be honored at 11:30 prior to the game.