What looked to be a promising start for West Virginia, the Mountaineers couldn’t hold the lead, in a Friday night loss to No. 5 TCU.
As West Virginia ace Jackson Wolf took the mound in the fifth inning, everything seemed to be going his way. Through four innings, Wolf (3-5) had given up no hits, and struck out nine batters against one of the better offenses in the country. That would not last long though, as his good start would not hold up, with No. 5 TCU defeating West Virginia 8-2.
“He’s just been getting better every time out,” head coach Randy Mazey said of Wolf.
The Mountaineers came into today’s game needing a win. After losing four straight Big 12 series, if there was ever a time to turn it around it was tonight, with their ace on the mound, in front of their home crowd. That was only wishful thinking, though because the TCU offense battled its way to a series opening victory.
In the top of the first inning, the Mountaineers got off to a fast start. After Wolf struck out two of the first three batters in the first, the Mountaineers offense was able to push its first run across. Austin Davis led off with a bunt single, and then scored two batters later, on a Tyler Doanes double down the right field line.
After the first, Wolf and TCU starting pitcher Russell Smith both settled in. Wolf continued to plow through TCU hitters, striking out two in the second, two in the third, and then striking out the side in the fourth inning. Smith allowed only one additional run in his outing as he got taken out after throwing 4.1 innings, striking out three, and giving up only two runs on four hits.
In the top of the fifth, the TCU offense finally was able to get going. After designated hitter Hunter Wolfe drew an 11 pitch walk, TCU was then able to hit two singles to tie the game at 1-1. Wolfe seemed to have a chance to get out of the inning, but a wild pitch allowed runners to move up to second and third, and then on what would have been a double play ball, shortstop Tommy Sacco singled on a soft ground ball up the middle to put TCU up 3-1.
The Mountaineers responded in the bottom half of the inning. After loading the bases, Davis singled to right field to cut the TCU lead in half. Mikey Kluska then grounded to the third baseman who touched third and then threw to first for the inning ending double play, and stranding the bases loaded.
The TCU offense got that run right back, after a pair of defensive miscues allowed TCU to go up 4-2. The Mountaineers looked to have TCU baserunner Gene Wood picked off, but Kluska couldn’t apply the tag and then a bobble by center fielder Braden Barry on the next play allowed Wood to score. The TCU offense kept piling on, scoring one run in the eighth, and then three more in the ninth.
“We didn’t have a meltdown defensively in the first four innings, we started that in the fifth,” Mazey said.
TCU second baseman Gary Rodgers finished with three hits, three runs batted in, and three runs scored, with Sikes and Sacco each adding two RBI’s of their own.
The West Virginia bullpen once again was unable to limit a team’s scoring. This time it was Madison Jeffery who struggled. Jeffery gave up three runs on three hits, in two innings of work.
West Virginia’s offense was unable to get anything going after Russell departed, only getting two hits the remainder of the game off of TCU pitcher Drew Hill. Hill (2-0) pitched 4.2 innings, striking out five and not allowing any runs in relief.
The Mountaineers will look to even the series tomorrow, as the Mountaineers play game two of the series tomorrow, with first pitch set for 2 p.m.
Photo by Dale Sparks, WVU