Texas– The West Virginia University baseball team concluded the regular season with an 8-7, upset victory at No. 5 Texas Tech on Saturday afternoon.
In a roller coaster, back-and-forth game, the Mountaineers (33-21, 12-11 Big 12) rallied with a run in the seventh and one in the ninth to down the Red Raiders (40-14, 19-5 Big 12). It is WVU’s biggest upset win in coach Randy Mazey’s four seasons.
“This was a character game,” said Mazey. “We score, they score, we score, they score. After losing the first two, we could have gone down but we didn’t. This was a game to show who had the biggest heart. Every guy in the dugout, every guy in the lineup played like it was the last games of their careers.”
In front of a sellout crowd of 4,432 on a warm, sun-soaked day at Rip Griffin Park, WVU used a five-run fourth inning and withstood a 6-1 TTU run to cap the regular season with the upset.
The Mountaineers, who have won 14 of their last 17 games, played right with the fifth-ranked Red Raiders the entire series. WVU trailed in just six innings all series and out-hit TTU in both of the first two games.
“We’re one of the hottest teams in the country right now,” added Mazey. “We have a lot of confidence heading into the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 4 seed. This was a good atmosphere for us to play in, a packed house here in Lubbock and our guys responded really well.”
It was a complete team effort that led to Saturday’s win. Six Mountaineers had at least one of WVU’s 11 hits, while all but two starters had a hit, drove in a run or scored a run.
Freshman left fielder Kyle Gray had a career day to lead WVU offensively. He had three hits with four RBIs, including the eventual game-winning single in the ninth and a two-RBI double to jumpstart a five-run fourth inning.
On the mound, senior right-hander Blake Smith entered the game in the seventh inning and shut the door on the Texas Tech offense that had scored seven runs on 12 hits in six innings. Smith earned the win to improve to 4-1 on the year as he held TTU to just one hit in 3.0 innings of work with three strikeouts and a walk.
Along with Gray’s day at the plate, freshman second baseman Cole Austin had two hits and scored three runs, while junior catcher Ray Guerrini had a pair of hits and two runs scored. Freshman catcher Ivan Vera tripled to bring home two runs in the fourth and sophomore designated hitter Kyle Davis had two hits and drove in a run.
The first run of the game crossed the plate in the second inning, when Texas Tech benefited from a leadoff walk and a single to take a 1-0 lead on a fielder’s choice.
West Virginia batted around and stormed ahead with five runs on three hits in the fourth inning to take a 5-1 lead. Guerrini led off the inning with a single and Austin followed with a walk. Senior center fielder KC Huth was then hit by a pitch to load the bases for Gray.
Gray delivered in a big way, with a double off the right-field wall. The hit easily scored Guerrini and Austin and sent Huth to third. A groundout then scored Huth and freshman right fielder Darius Hill followed with a walk. Vera tripled to bring home Gray and Hill for the final two runs of the inning.
The Red Raiders answered right back though with four runs in the bottom half to tie the game at 5-5. A leadoff home run by Eric Gutierrez was followed by an error, a single and a balk to bring in the second run of the inning. Orlando Garcia then homered to left field to even the score at 5-5. With the bases loaded, junior right-hander Jackson Sigman relieved sophomore starter Conner Dotson and got the final out of the inning to prevent TTU from taking the lead.
WVU wasted no time in retaking the lead with a run in the top of the fifth inning. It again began with a leadoff walk, as Austin drew the free pass on seven pitches. Austin stole second and scored on Gray’s single to right field.
TTU took the lead back with two runs in the sixth inning. With two outs, a hit-by-pitch was followed by a single off of senior left-handed reliever Ross Vance. Freshman righty Braden Zarbnisky gave up a two-RBI double before a strikeout ended the inning.
The Mountaineers didn’t trail for long though and responded quickly with a run in the top of the seventh to tie the game at 7-7. Guerrini led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. He scored on a wild pitch.
After Smith shut down the Red Raiders in order in the seventh and allowed just a single in the eighth, WVU regained the lead in the ninth, and again it was Gray who delivered.
Guerrini was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and Austin followed with a single. After a fielder’s choice put runners on first and second with one out, Gray singled with a liner to right to score Austin.
WVU had other chances to score, but could not push a run across. The Mountaineers had runners on the corners with no outs in the first, stranded a runner on third in the second and left two on base in the third.
Today’s game marked the conclusion of the regular season. Postseason competition begins on Wednesday, May 25, at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City. Seeded fourth, WVU has qualified for the tournament in all four seasons in the Big 12. WVU will open against fifth-seeded Oklahoma on Wednesday, May 25, at 10 a.m.