West Virginia took Texas to the wire in the wee hours of Friday night in Oklahoma City, but the Mountaineers couldn’t come up with enough offense to support a gutsy pitching performance from four relievers in a 3-2 loss to the Longhorns in the Big 12 Championship.
The loss eliminated WVU from the event, and also rang down the curtain on its season with a 25-27 record.
“I asked the team to show toughness and compete as hard as they could, and that’s what they did,” head coach Randy Mazey noted.
Seemingly out of pitching options, Mazey flouted convention by tossing the ball to reliever Jacob Watters to start the game. The sophomore righthander has been exclusively a late-inning reliever and closer in his two seasons at WVU, having never started a contest.
Against the Longhorns, however, Watters responded with a better outing than anyone could have expected. He struck out eight Longhorns and equaled his career high of three innings, firing 74 pitches, 13 more than his previous career high. He allowed just one run — self-inflicted via a pair of walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch — but did not allow a Texas hit in 13 plate appearances.
Mazey continued with the very definition of a “bullpen game” by going to Madison Jeffrey after Watters emptied his tank, and when he walked the bases full in the bottom of the fourth UT had a big chance to break the game open. Mike Antico’s deep ball to right appeared to be doing just that, but WVU rightfielder Austin Davis streaked back to the fence, leaped high and pulled it back into the park for the third out.
AUSTIN DAVIS MAKES AN UNBELIEVABLE CATCH TO ROB A GRAND SLAM!!! 🤯🤯🤯
— WVU Baseball (@WVUBaseball) May 29, 2021
Seemingly motivated by Davis’ monster play, West Virginia mustered some offense after producing just two hits through the first four innings. Braden Barry doubled and Davis pushed a bunt single to get aboard with two out in the top of the fifth. Davis then stole second without being contested. That turned out to be a big play, as Matt McCormick slapped a hit to left field to score both Barry and Davis to give the Mountaineers a 2-1 lead.
Texas had just one hit to that point, but broke through with a pair after a leadoff walk in the bottom the sixth. The latter, a two-run double, put the Longhorns back in front at 3-2.
While West Virginia’s relief corps scrambled and battled, Texas starter Pete Hansen had far fewer problems in his 6.2 innings of work. He struck out nine WVU batters and did not walk any while throwing 65 strikes on 98 pitches. He had a stretch of 12 outs in 13 WVU batters in earning his eighth win of the season against one loss.
Jeffrey took the loss to even his season record at 2-2.
Texas (42-14) moves on to face Oklahoma State at 1:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday on ESPN+. The Cowboys have yet to lose in the tournament, so the Horns will have to defeat the Cowboys twice in order to move on the title game on Sunday. If that second Saturday game is necessary, it is scheduled to commence at either 5 or 8:30 p.m. ET, depending on the result of the TCU – Kansas State game in the opposite division.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
WVU catcher Paul McIntosh may have turned in one of the finest defensive games in Mountaineer history. Working with pitchers who battled control issues all night, he framed a handful of marginal deliveries to get strike calls, blocked and controlled several potential wild pitches and also completed a lovely strike ’em out throw ’em out double play, nailing Texas second baseman Mitchell Daly by a wide margin to end the second inning.
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West Virginia hitters struck out 13 times in the game, while Texas batters went down on strikes on 14 occasions. UT got aboard 10 times via walks, while WVU grabbed just two free passes. Texas did not allow a Mountaineer leadoff hitter to reach base in any inning.
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