Mountaineers Rally Late to Secure 12-7 Win Over Tech
By Brian McCracken
West Virginia (34-23) found a way to dig deep, rally late and complete a late game comeback to beat the nation’s No.3 team on Friday evening.
Through six and a half innings West Virginia had outhit Texas Tech but found itself down on the scoreboard after stranding several runners in scoring position. After Jackson Cramer hit a sacrifice fly to center and cut Tech’s lead to 4-3, Ryan Long answered by blasting a 1-1 pitch to deep right field to push the Red Raiders lead out to 6-3 in the bottom half of the seventh. Though most won’t admit it, many spectators probably considered this the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Mountaineers.
After the blast Braden Zarbnisky entered the game in relief and kept the Red Raiders at bay for the remainder of the inning, but the damage had been done. West Virginia had two innings to make up a three run deficit or face elimination from the Big 12 tournament.
After Jimmy Galusky grounded out to start the top of the eighth, Isaiah Kearns (who pitched a brilliant complete game against Baylor on Wednesday) came on to pinch hit for center fielder T.J. Lake. Kearns, who had just 12 at-bats on the year, did the unthinkable when he took a 1-2 pitch to deep left field for his second home run of the season. The solo shot cut the deficit to 6-4 and gave the Mountaineers new found life.
Zarbnisky threw a scoreless inning in the eighth and West Virginia came to the plate down two in the top half of the ninth. Darius Hill led off the inning with a double to put the tying run in scoring position. Two batter’s later senior first baseman Jackson Cramer stepped up to the plate and delivered the latest of many memorable plays in his Mountaineer career.
After fouling off six pitches Cramer finally got a hold of a pitch and hit a ball to right field. The ball bounced innocently to the grass but was badly misplayed by Tech’s right fielder, giving Cramer the opportunity to round second, third and eventually home plate. Although it was scored as a single with a fielding error on the score sheet it was one of the best hustle plays you will see all year.
In the top of the 10th the Mountaineers continued their rally and built what turned out to be an insurmountable lead. After Jimmy Galusky singled and Brandon White successfully reached on a bunt, Kyle Gray hit a shot up the middle to give West Virginia its first lead of the game. Two batters later Tech opted to load the bases and intentionally walk Darius Hill in order to face Cole Austin, but Red Raider pitcher Caleb Freeman ended up walking Austin as well to score another run and put the Mountaineers up two.
Jackson Cramer then came to the plate once more, this time hitting a double that scored two of his five RBIs on the day. Two batters later Braden Zarbnisky brought home Cramer on a single to left field that gave the Mountaineers their sixth run of the inning and extended the lead to 12-6.
Tech loaded the bases and got a run back in the bottom half of the 10th but a one out, 4-6-3 double play put an end to the game and any chance Tech had of matching the Mountaineers’ six run inning. The win took just under four and half hours to complete, marking the longest game the Mountaineers have played this season.
West Virginia will be back in action tomorrow at 10:00 am ET against Oklahoma St. If it loses it will be eliminated from the Big 12 tournament, if it wins it will play another game against the Cowboys to determine who advances to the conference championship game on Sunday.