OKLAHOMA CITY–Behind sophomore Conner Dotson’s stellar pitching performance, the fourth-seeded West Virginia University baseball team defeated fifth-seeded Oklahoma 11-1 on Saturday morning at Chickasaw Brockton Ballpark to advance to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship for the first time since joining the conference.
The Mountaineers (36-21) are making their first championship appearance since 1996 as a member of the Big East and 10th in school history.
WVU out-hit the Sooners (30-27) 11 to four.
Sophomore designated hitter Kyle Davis went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBI. Junior catcher Ray Guerrini and freshman shortstop Jimmy Galusky each had two hits.
“I just feel really good up there,” Davis said. “It also helps with the stellar pitching we have gotten. As a hitter, there is no better feeling than that your defense has your back and makes going up there that much easier. Just hitting the ball hard, seeing it well, just results fall and you just build your confidence and go from there.”
Dotson pitched 6.1 innings, surrendering one run on four hits. The right-hander struck out nine.
“We have more heroes in Mountaineer uniforms,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “When we went to bed last night, we weren’t exactly sure who was going to be pitching for us because we have a couple guys out with injury. It was just another case of flipping the ball to a guy who has the utmost confidence in himself. When we made the decision last night, I called Dottie and asked him if he could beat these guys. He replied, ‘Yes, I can,’ and he convinced me by the tone of his voice. To give a performance this late in the tournament, and the way he did it, it’s very tough to do. Oklahoma has been swinging the bat as well as anybody, putting up about 30 runs in the past two games. For him to go out and do what he did against that lineup, it’s just a very special day for Conner.”
Following a three-up, three-down top of the first, OU took a 1-0 lead. Senior right fielder Alex Wise led off the game with a base hit past a diving Galusky. He stole second and went to third on Guerrini’s throwing error. Designated hitter Steele Walker drove in Wise with a base hit through the left side.
The Mountaineers answered in the second. Jackson Cramer singled to center field to lead off the inning. The junior first baseman went to third on Guerrini’s single down the left field line and scored on freshman second baseman Cole Austin’s sacrifice fly. Guerrini scored on Galusky’s fielder’s choice. Davis gave WVU a 3-1 lead plating senior center fielder KC Huth.
Davis continued his hot hitting in the fourth blasting a two-run home run into the picnic area to give the Mountaineers a 5-1 lead. WVU tacked on another run when freshman right fielder Darius Hill scored on third baseman Cade Harris’ throwing error.
The Mountaineers added to their lead in the fifth. Austin walked and stole second and third. He scored on left fielder Kyle Gray’s safety squeeze down the third base line.
WVU tacked on to its lead in the seventh, scoring four runs on five hits to give the Mountaineers an 11-1 edge and putting the 10-run rule into effect.
The Mountaineers improved to 6-5 all-time in the Big 12 Championship.
For the first time in championship history, this year’s tournament has seen three games end in the run-rule fashion, Texas defeated Baylor 15-3 and Texas knocked off Texas Tech 17-4 in seven-inning contests.
WVU has outscored its opponents 26-5 in this year’s championship and leads the championship field with a 1.44 ERA.
Dotson is tied for the championship lead in strikeouts with nine.
“I was definitely having a lot of confidence with my fastball,” he said. “I was able to locate it where I wanted it, most of the time. The third through the fifth inning, I kind of found my curve ball and that kind of kept them off my fastball and let me throw it more. Those two pitches really helped me out today.”
The Mountaineers will play the winner of the Texas-TCU game on Sunday at 2 p.m. (ET).