WVU’s Alek Manoah Blows Away Red Raiders With 15 Ks In 2-0 Win
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia starting pitcher Alek Manoah made a commitment last year to become a professional pitcher. On Friday night against No. 11 Texas Tech, he took a rather large stride toward that destiny.
The six-foot-six, 260-pound junior blew the visiting Red Raiders away, striking out 15 against no walks as the Mountaineers (21-12, 5-5) took a 2-0 decision in front of 2,187 fans at Monongalia County ballpark. In pitching West Virginia’s first nine-inning complete game since B.J. Myers turned the trick two years ago, Manoah recorded an incredible 103 strikes on 125 pitches, and allowed only four hits. Two of those were infield singles.
While Manoah was exciting all evening, the most electric moment came in the eighth. Cameron Warren, getting one of only two-well-hit balls off Manoah, smacked a double to deep center to lead off the frame. The emotional Mountaineer then turned up the heat, a seeming impossibility after approaching the 100 pitch mark, and fanned Dru Backer, Max Marusak and Braxton Fulford on 11 pitches. That performance left the crowd equal parts roaring and open-mouthed as Manoah let his emotions out with a big yell while bouncing off the mound to the WVU dugout. It was a dominating showing at the end of an overpowering performance.
“I gave up the hit, but all night I wasn’t focused on results,” said Manoah, who certainly got plenty of them. “I was just focused on first pitch strike, second pitch strike, then get the third pitch over the plate. I think I did that nine times in a row, and got three really huge outs. It was fun.”
West Virginia gave Manoah all the support he needed in the first inning, when it scored first for the fifth consecutive game and the 24th overall this year. With two outs, Darius Hill ripped a double down the right field line, then scored on Marques Inman’s single. Two innings later, Hill reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second, catching Texas Tech catcher Fulford off guard. That proved key, as Paul McIntosh then did the honors with an RBI single to push Hill home with the second, and as it turned out, last, run of the game.
Texas Tech leadoff hitter Gabe Holt gave the Red Raiders one more glimmer of hope in the ninth, leading off with a sneaky single up the middle. After The Mountaineers got one out, head coach Randy Mazey paid a visit to the mound. The fans thought a pitching change might be imminent, but that was not the case.
“Taking him out of the game wasn’t even a thought at that point. I just wanted to talk to him about how we were going to pitch to one of the best hitters in the United States,” said head coach Randy Mazey, referring to Tech third baseman Josh Jung. “(Manoah) was super good tonight. There’s nothing he didn’t do well. He was as good at the end he was at the beginning.”
“We would have had some words,” Manoah said of what his reaction would have been had he been pulled. While he said it jokingly, and followed up with compliments for both Mazey and closer Sam Kessler, the quip illustrated his bulldog mentality, and his desire to compete.
“You can’t imagine anyone could pitch better,” Mazey summed up. “The way he pitched tonight, I don’t know how you could top that.”
Texas Tech (22-10, 5-5) pitched well too, but could not match the power of the West Virginia pitcher his teammates refer to as AK47. Starter Erickson Lanning took the loss after yielding the two earned runs in 4.2 innings, and reliever John McMillon hurled 3.2 innings of near perfect ball, yielding no hits and one walk while striking out six. While that would have been frustrating in many games, there was the sense that the game could have gone 12 or 13 innings, and as long as Manoah was in the game, WVU would retain the lead.
Game two of the three game series is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, with the possibility that two games could be played depending on weather forecasts for Sunday. There is no deadline for Sunday’s game to complete, however, as Texas Tech chartered a plane for the trip, and is remaining in the east to play at Duke on Tuesday.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
With the dominating pitching performances, the game took only two hours and 23 minutes to play.
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In earning his fifth win of the season, Manoah lowered his ERA to 2.08, and his WHIP to 0.87. He struck out two or more Red Raiders in five of the nine innings, and fanned the side twice.
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The top seven hitters in Tech’s batting order are hitting .305 or better (up to Brian Klein’s .373) but only Holt, with three hits, and Warren, with the double, got into the hit column.
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The 15 strikeouts for Manoah were the most for a WVU pitcher in nearly two decades. David Maust struck out the same number on March 11, 2001 against Cleveland State.