WVU Starts, Ends Big In Win Over Oklahoma State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia sprinted out of the blocks, then got a huge home run late to top Oklahoma State and even the Big 12 series against the Cowboys 1-1 on Saturday evening at Monongalia County Ballpark. The Mountaineers scored six runs in the first, then got a two-run homer from Marques Inman in the bottom of the eighth to blunt an OSU rally that saw the Cowboys climb to within one run. That hit closed the scoring in the 10-7 contest and gave WVU a chance to win the series on Sunday.
The first inning unfolded in an eerie imitation of Friday’s contest. Oklahoma State (19-13-1 / 8-3) scored a run in the top of the first when Matt Dobbs walked, moved to second when Colin Simpson saw hit by a pitch, then scooted around to score on Christian Funk’s single. Just as they did on Friday evening, the Mountaineers responded in the bottom of the frame, scoring two runs on RBI singles by Darius Hill and Marques Inman. There, however, the mirror image of Friday night ended, as WVU added four more runs to move out to a 6-1 advantage. Chase Illig drove in runs three and four with a single, and freshman Tyler Doanes, making just his seventh start of the year, ripped a triple to right center to plate two more.
In all, WVU sent 11 batters to the plate in its opening at-bat, rapping five hits and scoring six runs. Cowboy starting pitcher Carson Teel threw 49 pitches in the inning, and walked two in addition to hitting a batter. The first inning took 50 minutes to complete, setting the stage for a long game which consumed three hours and 40 minutes.
“Normally after a big inning [like the first] you kind of die a little bit offensively, but I don’t think we did that,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “Every time they scored we kind of came back with an answer.”
Meanwhile, West Virginia starting pitcher Kade Strowd came on strong after giving up the early run. He struck out the side in the first inning, including the last hitter of the frame with two on, and continued to keep Cowboy hitters off balance. A night after reliever BJ Myers struck out nine hitters in five innings, Strowd recorded 10 punchouts of his own while giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks. He departed after walking the leadoff hitter in the sixth, and threw 110 pitches. Right hander Sam Kessler relieved Strowd, but wasn’t able to close the door immediately. A balk and an error in right field allowed the Cowboys to cut the lead to 7-4, and led to middle innings that were a back and forth affair.
OSU scored in the top of the fourth, with WVU (16-16 / 2-6) answering with a run in the bottom of the fifth. The Cowboys came back with two more runs in the sixth around Strowd’s departure, but the Mountaineers executed Mazey ball to perfection in the bottom of the inning, as Brandon White singled then came around to score on a pair of groundouts and a stolen base.The visitors added another in the seventh, and really made the crowd of 2,558 nervous when they got to reliever Alek Manoah for a pair of runs in the top of the eighth to cut the lead to 8-7. Manoah, while hitting the radar gun at 95 mph on several pitches, was off target in the eighth, as he walked the leadoff batter and hit two others. Help, however, was on the way.
In the bottom of the eighth, Braden Zarbnisky worked his fourth walk of the game, and moved into scoring position with a steal and a balk (one of four in the game). Inman made it an easy trip home as he smashed a pitch deep over the left field wall, giving the Mountaineers a much-needed cushion. Thus aided, Manoah recorded a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the win.
“Inman’s home run, words can’t even describe how much better a three-run lead is than a one-run lead in the ninth inning,” Mazey said.
For his part, Inman was thinking long ball when he came to the plate, even in a situation that seemed to call for just making contact and getting home one insurance run.
“I was thinking home run,” he said of the blast, which gave him a game-high four RBI. “I was sitting on a fastball and I got it.”
“Another 21 balls we smashed in the middle of the field today, and when you do that you are going to score a lot of runs and win a lot of games,” Mazey added. “We had some big hits.”
WVU had six players with multi-hit games, led by Brandon White, who went 3-5 and scored twice. Darius Hill, Kyle Gray, Chase Illig and Doanes joined Inman with two hits each. Doanes had three RBI and Illig two. Strowd got the win to even his record at 3-3 on the year, while Manoah rang up his first save. Teel took the loss for the Cowboys.
The final contest of the three game set has been moved up to noon on Sunday due to predicted rain in the Morgantown area. West Virginia will start Braden Zarbnisky, who currently sports a 2-1 record and a 2.76 ERA. Oklahoma State is expected to start righthander Jonathan Heasley, who is 2-3 with a 7.49 ERA.