For the majority of the season, West Virginia has struggled to put teams away. After getting early leads against most of their competition, a combination of an overworked bullpen and inconsistent lineup has led to West Virginia being in the bottom of the Big 12 Conference standings. Tonight however, after blasting three early home runs, the bullpen was able to hold on and win their sixth game in a row as the Mountaineers defeated the No. 2 Texas Longhorns 5-4, in game one of their three-game series.
West Virginia (23-23, 8-14 Big 12) got things going early offensively. In the top of the first inning, freshman Nathan Blasick hit a two-run home run to right field. In the bottom of the inning Texas (38-13, 15-7 Big 12) answered quickly. Cam Williams of Texas roped a double down the left field line to plate a pair and tie the game.
In the third inning, Paul McIntosh stepped to the plate and immediately was down 0-2 in the count. After battling to get the count to 3-2, McIntosh homered on the 12th pitch of the at-bat, to put the Mountaineers ahead 3-2. This was McIntosh’s team leading eigth home run of the year and his fifth RBI in his last three games.
In the bottom of the frame, West Virginia starting pitcher Jackson Wolf ran into trouble. After giving up a one out single, Wolf (5-5) walked two of the next three batters to load the bases. Wolf was then able to get a strikeout to end the inning and preserve the Mountaineer lead. In the fourth inning, Wolf again ran into trouble. Texas’ Mike Antico hit a home run to tie the game at 3-3.
West Virginia responded with a home run of its own in the sixth inning. Kevin Brophy who has been in and out of the starting lineup as of late turned on a 94 mph fastball and hit a line drive home run that sneaked over the left field wall to put West Virginia up 4-3.
The Mountaineers continued to add on. In the sixth inning, Hudson Byorick singled and then advanced to second on a throwing error by the Texas right fielder. Then, Victor Scott hammered a ball that one hopped the fence in right-center field which allowed Byorick to score, while Scott was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple, but the Mountaineers still led 5-3.
In the bottom of the inning, miscues plagued the Mountaineers. After a single, Longhorn left fielder Eric Kennedy bunted to West Virginia first baseman Byorick, who then made a wild throw that went into right field, allowing the runner from first to score and make the game 5-4. On the very next play, Byorick, Brophy, and catcher Matt McCormick collided on what was a ball hit in the air that landed about 10 feet in front of home plate. Wolf then exited on what was not as dominant as his outings usually are, but good enough to keep West Virginia in the game.
In the game came Noah Short to pitch for the Mountaineers with runners on first and third with only one out. Short walked the first man he faced to load the bases. In stepped three hitter Zach Zubia who hit a line drive that was caught by Byorick at first, who then stepped on the base to get out of the inning and keep the Mountaineer lead at 5-4.
Wolf finished the day pitching 5.1 innings, striking out four, while giving up four runs on six hits and throwing 106 pitches.
In the seventh inning, the Texas offense was once again causing havoc. Williams – who hit the 2 RBI double in the first, again hit a double, but advanced to third with only one out after a bobble in the outfield. In came Jacob Watters for West Virginia. On Watters’ second pitch, the ball was high and got past McCormick. The ball then hit the backstop and McCormick flipped the ball to Watters who tagged Williams, who was ruled safe at the plate. Then, after a lengthy review – Williams was ruled out at the plate and the Mountaineer lead remained intact at 5-4.
The ninth inning was filled with drama for the Mountaineers. After having a fairly easy seventh inning, Watters stayed in the game for the ninth. Needing to beat the middle of the Texas batting order to get the win, Watters’ work was cut out for him.
After striking out the first batter, Watters walked Zubia. Watters was then able to get a big out, striking out Ivan Melendez, who came into the game with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. With two outs, Williams again stepped to the plate, doubling to put runners on the corners with two outs. Williams was able to steal second, therefore Texas had the tying and go ahead runs just two bases away.
In came Douglas Hodo III, who had 33 RBIs of his own on the year. After getting ahead quickly with two strikes, Hodo III was able to work the count full. Watter’s then threw an 87 mph slider to strike out Hodo and win the ballgame for the Mountaineers.
Watter’s picked up the save (4) for West Virginia, finishing with four strikeouts in 2.2 innings pitched, and only giving up one hit.
This was West Virginia’s first win against a top-five opponent since beating Oregon State in 2019, as well as their highest ever win in program history. The Mountaineers were unable to gain any ground in the standings though, as Kansas defeated No. 5 Texas Tech and Kansas State defeated No. 12 TCU as West Virginia looks to avoid the No. 8/9 matchup in the Big 12 Tournament next week.
West Virginia will look to win its seventh game in a row as they again face Texas, with first pitch set for 7:30 p.m.
Photo by Dale Sparks, WVU