WVU Misses Opportunities in 2-1 Loss To Oklahoma
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Friday night pitchers’ battles at the top level of college baseball usually hinge on one team taking advantage of one or two of the few scoring opportunities which present themselves. That was the case at Monongalia County Ballpark on Friday night, as Oklahoma cashed in a pair of runs in the second while holding West Virginia at bay in all but one of their chances. The result was a 2-1 loss for the Mountaineers, which dropped them to 0-4 in the Big 12 Conference. OU moved to 4-0 to maintain its position atop the league.
The Sooners took advantage of a scoring opportunity in the second, benefiting from a leadoff walk by West Virginia starting pitcher Alek Manoah. An OU double, a sacrifice fly and an error plated two runs to give the Sooners the early lead.
West Virginia, conversely, couldn’t take advantage of their chances. The Mountaineers put runners on in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but could push across just one run. In the fifth, a pair of walks around a single loaded the bases with two out, but a Brandon White strikeout ended the inning. In the sixth, the Mountaineers loaded the bases with none out, but Oklahoma happily traded a double play for run, and avoided further damage with a strikeout of Ivan Gonzalez.
“That’s a win for the defense,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said of the critical play.
Perhaps the most painful miscue came in the seventh. The Mountaineers put Tevin Tucker and Tyler Doanes aboard with one out, and then attempted a double steal. Tucker beat the throw to third, but overslid the bag a bit while failing to hang on with his hand. OU third baseman Brylie Ware kept his glove down on Tucker, and was rewarded with the out call. A third consecutive strikeout, this one of Darius Hill, preserved the 2-1 lead.
“You just have to make the most of opportunities,” Mazey related. “Baseball is all about pitching, defense and timely hitting, and we got two of the three. Most times you need all three to win the game. You just can’t make mistakes against a team like this and expect to win.”
Despite some minor control issues, Manoah pitched very well for WVU. In 7.1 innings he allowed just three hits and two earned runs, which is enough to win most games. He did have had four walks and a wild pitch on 113 pitches, and took the tough loss to fall to 3-2 on the season. Oklahoma starter Cade Cavalli (4-1) earned the win by going five innings and allowing just the one earned run. He struck out eight and walked three. The Sooner bullpen was the key to the win, however, snuffing WVU’s rally attempts in the sixth and seventh and hurling a clean eighth inning before WVU threatened again in the ninth. Again, however, the relief corps was up to the task, with Jason Ruffcorn, who allowed the two baserunners, getting a groundout to end the game and earn the save.
“Before his last at bat, Darius (Hill) asked me, ‘Do you think they have any bad pitchers?'” Mazey said . “They don’t. Every guy they roll out there is really really good. Good pitching is going to beat good hitting every day of the week.”
West Virginia’s bullpen, while not as dominant, held the Sooners at bay after Manoah departed, although it was a dicey proposition. Zach Reid came on with two out and two on in the eighth to get a strikeout, and when both he and Ryan Bergert faltered in the ninth, Tristen Hudson took the hill with the bases loaded and none out. A grounder to shortstop in the drawn-in WVU infield produced a forceout at the plate, and a fly ball to center wasn’t deep enough to send the OU runner from third. Hudson completed the inning with a strikeout to give the Mountaineers one more chance at the plate.
Again, though, it wasn’t to be. Tucker walked and moved to second on a wild pitch, and when the Sooners pitched around Tyler Doanes, the Mountaineers had the winning run on first. White, though, grounded out to third to end the game.
Hill was 2-3 with a walk — the only Mountaineer with multiple hits.
Game two of the series is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, with Mountaineer lefthander Jackson Wolf scheduled to take the mound against Oklahoma righty Nathan Wiles. Wolf is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA, while Wiles has a sterling 5-0 record with a 2.89 ERA.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
Oklahoma pitchers struck out 12 West Virginia batters, who left eight runners on base. Each team had five hits.
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Mazey on West Virginia’s winless start in the league: “We have our work cut out for us. We’re 0-4 in the league. But like I told the guys, when you are down 4-0 early in a game, you still have a good opportunity to win the game. You have to get to 4-1 before you can get to 4-2.”
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Despite the low score, the game took three hours and 26 minutes to complete. The loss was WVU’s first at home this year, dropping their overall record to 14-11.