WVU Holds On For Victory Over Kansas In Big 12 Opener
West Virginia saw its early eight-run lead drastically sliced, but the Mountaineers were able to hold on to defeat Kansas 12-8 on Wednesday in the opening game of the Big 12 Baseball Championship.
With the victory, WVU advances to the second round in the winner’s bracket. There it will face Texas Tech on Thursday at 5 p.m. (ET).
“Mountaineers win. That’s what counts at this point,” said West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey, whose squad improved to 35-18. “It wasn’t always pretty, and it got hairy there.”
The Mountaineers opened up a 9-1 lead through three innings at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. But just when thoughts of a 10-run mercy rule started dancing though everyone’s heads, the Jayhawks came charging back.
KU scored six unanswered runs in the fourth and fifth innings combined to cut West Virginia’s advantage to 9-7. The Jayhawks had grabbed all the momentum, but then the Mountaineers countered. They outscored KU 3-1 over the course of the final three innings to secure tournament’s opening game victory.
“We kept grinding and kept competing, but I compliment West Virginia on being efficient,” said Kansas coach Ritch Price, whose club fell to 31-25 after the loss. “We stayed physically and mentally tough and kept competing, but it was just a little too much to overcome.”
It was an early start for both teams on Wednesday, as the contest began at 9 a.m. local time (CT) in Oklahoma City.
KU jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. The Mountaineers immediately responded, as their first six batters in the bottom of the first reached base, five on hits. WVU wound up scoring five runs in the inning, and then added three more in the second and one in the third to carry a 9-1 lead into the top of the fourth.
With Nick Snyder pitching for West Virginia, which was the No. 4 seed in the tournament, WVU seemed to be in great shape. The junior lefthander was 8-1 on the season, had an ERA of 1.95 and hadn’t given up more than two runs in any of his 10 starts.
“We had our guy on the mound who was giving up less than two runs a game, but Kansas gave us all we could handle,” said Mazey.
Snyder took the 9-1 lead into the top of the fourth, but allowed a double and then a single to start the inning. He also walked one, as KU scored a pair of runs in the fourth.
Still in command with a 9-3 lead, the fifth proved to be Snyder’s undoing … and almost West Virginia’s.
Snyder started the inning with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a double from Jaxx Groshans. One out away from getting out of the fifth, Snyder couldn’t finish it off. He gave up two more hits and two walks, leaving the game the score 9-5. WVU reliever Gabe Kurtzhals couldn’t stop the bleeding, allowing a single to KU pinch hitter Tom Lichty. That hit plated two more and cut West Virginia’s lead to 9-7 before the Mountaineers final wiggled out of the fifth.
The Jayhawks had all the momentum at that point, but WVU slowed the tide a bit in the sixth. Darius Hill led off the inning with his school-record 77th career double. He advanced to third on a long Marques Inman fly out, and Paul McIntosh got Hill home with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Kansas cut West Virginia’s lead to two again in the top of the seventh with a single run of its own, but then a Mazey special gave the Mountaineers some breathing room in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Tevin Tucker and Tyler Doanes each singled. They eventually moved to third and second respectively with Brandon White at the plate. White laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt up the first base line, but WVU was looking not to score just one run but two out of the play. Tucker raced home easily on the sac bunt. On the move from the outset, Doanes rounded third and never stopped. KU’s first baseman, Nolan Metcalf, fielded the slow-rolling bunt, and conceding Tucker’s run, stepped over to the bag to get the out on White. But he never realized Doanes was flying down the line, scoring as well on the double squeeze.
“We’ve done that before,” said Mazey of the play. “We practice it, and it was a good time to use it with the speed we had on the bases and at the plate. I guess we’ll have to put it away for a while now that people have seen it.”
Snyder was charged with seven runs, all earned, while also giving up seven hits with five walks in his four and two-thirds innings, as he struck out four. Kurtzhals and Zach Reid followed Snyder in relief, but neither could shut down the Jayhawks. Finally Dillon Meadows took the ball for WVU in the midst of a full-blown jam the seventh and doused the fire. In his three innings of work, the redshirt junior from Paradise, Texas gave up no walks, no hits and no runs and struck out two to seal the victory for the Mountaineers and earn the save. Kurtzhals was credited with the victory.
Texas Tech (37-15), which was the Big 12’s regular season champions, took a 7-4 win from eighth-seeded Kansas State (25-32) in that first round game Wednesday afternoon. Thus the Red Raiders move on to meet WVU at 5 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, while the Wildcats will face Kansas in an elimination game Thursday morning at 10 a.m. (ET). Both games will be televised on FCS.
Alek Manoah (8-3), who Tuesday was named the Big 12’s Pitcher of the Year, will be on the mound for West Virginia Thursday, looking to propel the Mountaineers into the tournament’s semifinals for the fourth straight year. WVU made it to the championship game in 2016 before losing to TCU 11-10 in 10 innings.
On the other side of the bracket in OKC, No. 2 Baylor (33-15) faces No. 7 Oklahoma (33-21) at 5 p.m. Wednesday, while No. 3 Oklahoma State (32-17) meets No. 6 TCU (29-24) in the night cap at 8:30 (ET).
The Big 12 Championship runs through Sunday when it concludes with the title game (2 p.m., ET, on FSN) featuring the winners of each bracket.
Notes: West Virginia improved to 35-18 on the season, 11-10 all-time at the Big 12 Championship and 8-5 since 2016 … WVU is 6-3 all-time as a No. 4 seed at the Big 12 Championship, 4-0 against No. 5 seeds and 2-1 against Kansas … The Mountaineers’ 12 runs ties its Big 12 Championship high (2017 vs. Texas Tech, 2018 vs. Texas Tech), while their 17 hits are one shy of the program record of 18, set in the 2017 championship against Texas Tech … Paul McIntosh and Brandon White each had a career-best four RBIs, tied for the most by a Mountaineer in a Big 12 Championship game, and McIntosh added his first career triple … Dillon Meadows’ save is West Virginia’s 13th on the season, tied for second-most in program history … WVU pitchers had six strikeouts against KU and have 521 on the season, the most in a single-season in team history … Mountaineer hitters drew three walks, bringing their season total to 231, third-most in the WVU record books … Darius Hill extended his school records for games played (228), starts (228), at-bats (918) and doubles (77) and moves into fourth place in runs (174) … Hill’s 77 career doubles are two shy of tying the Big 12’s all-time record of 79 … Ivan Gonzalez moves into third place in WVU history in sacrifice flies (15), is sixth in starts (192) and at-bats (728) and tied for seventh in games played (204) … Brandon White is in sole possession of second place in program history with 59 career stolen bases and is in sixth with 24 stolen bases in 2019.