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Heroic performances lead WVU to 8-6 win over Texas

GRANVILLE, W. Va. —After getting swept in yesterday’s doubleheader, West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey said today was going to challenge his team’s pride. That pride was tested even more after the Longhorns scored three runs in the first inning and Mazey was forced to go to his bullpen. 

The Mountaineers would step up to the plate, fueled by their bullpen, and a big day from Dayne Leonard as West Virginia beat Texas 8-6 in game three of their series. 

“When they throw up three in the first inning, an average team or a team without leadership would just roll over right there and be like here we go again. But we find a way, we kept scratching and clawing and so many guys had so many great games. There were a ton of heroes today in the gold jerseys,” West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey said. 

In the first inning, West Virginia starting pitcher Zach Bravo was hit literally and figuratively by Texas. Douglas Hodo led off the game hitting a ball up the middle which hit Bravo. Two batters later, Texas’ Ivan Melendez continued his tear, roping a double to left field. Two batters after that, Texas held a 2-0 lead Bravo’s day was done. 

Mazey turned to Chase Smith, who is usually pitching in the eighth or ninth inning of games. 

Mazey said when he handed Smith the ball, Smith said this was the first time in his career he was pitching in the first inning. 

Smith would allow one more run in the first, but escape any more trouble, putting the Mountaineers down 3-0. 

“He did his job. To get out of there only giving up the third run in the first inning and they had one of their best hitters at the plate,” Mazey said. 

The Mountaineers would answer back in the second inning, scoring three runs of their own. 

McGwire Holbrook singled, and Nathan Blasick walked, before Grant Hussey laced a single into right field to score both Holbrook and Blasick. Tevin Tucker who came into the game hitting just .163, then tripled as Texas’ Dylan Campbell dove but came up just short, allowing Hussey to score and tie the game. 

Smith would be asked to keep going, pitching into the fifth inning. 

Smith would run into trouble in the fifth, allowing back-to-back singles, before Texas scored on a two-run single from Hodo, to take a 5-3 lead. With runners on second and third, Mazey again turned to the back of his bullpen, as Trey Braithwaite — West Virginia’s normal closer was to take the mound. 

Braithwaite intentionally walked Melendez before getting Murphy Stehly to fly out. 

Smith would end up throwing a season-high 63 pitches, across 3.1 innings pitched, five hits, two runs, while striking out two. 

“He was on a pitch count, it was about 400,” Mazey said of Smith. 

The Mountaineers would be able to cash in fourth inning, with Dayne Leonard scoring on a double down the left field line from Hussey, to trail by only one run. In the sixth inning, it was Leonard again who had to step up in a big moment and deliver for the Mountaineers. 

With the bases loaded and in an 0-2 count, Leonard ripped a fastball just barely fair down the right field line. Leonard cleared the bases and made it safely to second, putting West Virginia in front 7-5. 

“I always try to just simplify it and see the ball and hit the ball,” Leonard said. “To be honest I kind of just blacked out and just let everything else take over. I was able to put one in play, that was my goal, [to] put one in play.”

Braithwaite would continue to run out to the mound, as he pitched into the ninth inning. 

 Braithwaite would continue to have to battle against a difficult Texas lineup, as he walked the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning. Braithwaite was facing the heart of Texas’ lineup and got a strikeout and a fly out to end the jam. 

“I think when I’m in the game it’s pitch-by-pitch,” Braithwaite said of his mindset when he is called upon early in the game. 

Braithwaite would end up pitching into the ninth inning, before he was pulled for Noah Short, who was not expecting to be at the ballpark today. 

“When we got here to the field today, Noah (Short) wasn’t even here,” Mazey said. “I looked up and there he was, I didn’t even know he was here.” 

Short would come in and get three outs in the ninth inning, to seal the win for West Virginia. 

“That just screams leadership,” Mazey said of Short’s performance. I’m just going to do what I can to represent this state, and all the people.” 

Between Smith, Braithwaite, and Short, the trio threw a combined 164 pitches, throwing 8.2 innings, and striking out six. 

“Those three guys that pitched, Chase, and Trey, and Noah they were all fresh. We couldn’t stand there and let them score five or six before we brought those guys in. They all did an unbelievable job,” Mazey said.

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