WACO, Texas — West Virginia closer Paul Pascal threw 58 pitches in 2 2/3 innings but stranded the potential tying and winning runs in the bottom of the ninth, salvaging the Mountaineers’ 9-8 win over Baylor in the opener of a Big 12 series Friday night.
“We are going up against a team who isn’t extremely talented, but is extremely motivated,” said Baylor coach Steve Smith after West Virginia (17-13, 4-3 Big 12) closed out its eighth consecutive win.
With runners on first and third, Pascal (2-3) coaxed a game-ending groundout from Baylor’s top hitter Nathan Orf, who came in hitting .390.
“This is a really good win for the program,” said coach Randy Mazey, who’s team seemed to be in control up 6-0 after chasing Baylor starter Dillon Newman with a sixth-run fifth. The cushion was still mostly intact when West Virginia ace Harrison Musgrave walked the leadoff batter in the seventh and departed after 108 pitches leading 6-1.
But reliever Don Dierdorff issued three walks around a triple to help fuel the Bears’ comeback, which also got a boost from Tuntland’s two-run error at third base. By the time Pascal fanned pinch-hitter Mitch Price to escape a base-loaded threat, Baylor had pulled even at 6-all.
“We had a big lead on them and we felt like we let them back into the game,” Mazey said.
Ryan Tuntland had three hits and gave WVU the lead for good in the eighth when he scored on Ryan McBroom’s single to make it 7-6. McBroom later stole third and scored on a throwing error, an insurance run the Mountaineers needed in a game of wild swings.
After Baylor trimmed the deficit to 8-7, WVU’s Brady Wilson led off the ninth with a walk, stole second, took third on Tuntland’s single and scored on McBroom’s sac-fly.
“It feels good as a coach to get into that part of the lineup with those guys (Tuntland and McBroom) swinging the bat as well as they are,” Mazey said. “When we let them back into the game those guys led off innings with big hits and started rallies for us.”
Scoreless through four innings, the game was following the expected pitcher’s duel script — at least until WVU’s smallball attack began creating havoc.
Tuntland and McBroom opened the fifth with singles before they were bunted into scoring position. Alan Filauro and Taylor Munden followed with consecutive squeeze bunts, and Bobby Boyd lashed a two-run triple that made it 4-0. Three more consecutive singles by Wilson, Jacob Rice and Matt Frazer extended WVU’s advantage to 6-0 and chased Newman with his shortest and worst start of the season (4 1/3 innings, eight hits, six runs, five earned).
Game 2 of the series is set for Saturday at 4:05 p.m. Eastern. The game can be heard on the affiliates of the Mountaineers Sports Network (WAJR 1440 AM in Morgantown). Links to live video, audio and stats can be accessed at WVUsports.com.