OKLAHOMA CITY–In West Virginia University’s 11-10 loss to TCU in the Big 12 Championship, Ross Vance put everything on the line.
Vance came in and relieved starting pitcher Michael Grove in the first inning on Sunday afternoon after the Horned Frogs took a 4-0 lead.
The “Magic Man” once again put on quite a show, just as he had done on Wednesday. He pitched a solid 6.1 innings, surrendering four runs, (three earned) on 10 hits. Vance recorded a Mountaineers Big 12 record, 12 strikeouts.
“They told me to be ready in the first in case his knee starting acting up again,” Vance said. “I was down there ready to go and I thought he doesn’t deserve these runs. I got out of it without too much damage hurt. I was trying to keep the team in it and keep it close so we could come back like we did.”
This comes after the senior southpaw had a phenomenal outing against the Oklahoma Sooners on Wednesday morning. He came in to relieve and injured Grove and tossed 8.2 innings of shutout baseball, giving up just one hit and fanning seven.
Vance stranded leadoff hitter Alex Wise on third in the first inning and the high-kicking pitcher was merely unhittable the rest of the afternoon.
“It’s unbelievable what we’ve asked that kid to do,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “Not many pitchers can do what he did this week, to step in there on short notice. For us to come in there and say, ‘Hey Ross, you’re the guy to come in the game in case someone gets hurt so be prepared.’ He came in a struck out 12 Horned Frogs. Which is not easy to do. They’re hitting more than 300 as a team. They’re one of the best offenses in all of college baseball. For him to come in a do that, after what he did against OU three days before, says volumes about his character and his tenacity.”
The senior was a piece of the Mountaineers’ rotation all season. He posted a 7-3 record and 4.91 ERA with 91 strikeouts. But after a performance against William & Mary on May 13 where Vance gave up six runs on seven hits in five innings, he moved to the bullpen.
Vance didn’t let that frustrate him. Instead, he embraced the role and was a key part of the team’s magical Big 12 Championship run.
“It’s been an experience,” Vance said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better, especially to finish out this tournament with this group of guys. It’s awesome. We had a great bunch of Mountaineers here and I know the future is bright for this program. They picked me up when I didn’t have a lot offers come my way. I couldn’t be more appreciative for the opportunity.”
The McKinney, Texas native came to WVU in 2014 as a sophomore after spending one season at Dodge City Community College. He missed the two previous seasons at Paris Junior College after having Tommy John surgery.
The 6-foot, 180-pound pitcher has been a mainstay in the Mountaineers rotation since arriving. Now Vance and his teammates must sit and await their fate on Monday afternoon to see if their season continues or comes to an end.
No matter how things play out, one thing is certain, Vance had a memorable final season at WVU.