CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Harrison Musgrave’s trickiest delivery Saturday was the one West Virginia’s ace gave reporters after another stellar outing.
“I’m not a strikeout guy,” he said.
TCU’s hitters might beg to differ after they struck out 14 times Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader.
Behind Musgrave’s three-hitter — his third shutout in the last four outings — West Virginia edged the Horned Frogs 2-0 to remain in first place in the Big 12.
Despite throwing 143 pitches, the sophomore left-hander felt strong enough to finish the game with a career high in strikeouts, including two in the ninth after TCU put two runners aboard on an error and Musgrave’s lone walk.
“I was going to finish the game one way or another,” said Musgrave (8-1), whose season ERA dipped to 1.94.
“He didn’t tire at all, which is one of the things you look for when the pitch count gets up. He stayed sharp throughout, so it was his game to win.” — Coach Randy Mazey after Musgrave’s 143-pitch shutout
WVU coach Randy Mazey said he felt comfortable with the pitch count because Musgrave wasn’t leaving pitches up in the zone.
“If you throw a complete game you should throw 120 to 135 pitches, and I think he had 118 going into the last inning,” Mazey said. “If you train your guys accordingly, they can do that. He didn’t tire at all, which is one of the things you look for when the pitch count gets up. He stayed sharp throughout, so it was his game to win.”
His dominant performance put the Mountaineers (30-20, 12-7) into position to win their fourth consecutive league series and enhanced the NCAA hopes of a team that began the season will cellar-dwelling projections.
“Without Harrison Musgrave you guys wouldn’t be talking to me right now,” Mazey told the media. “You would probably be at junior-high soccer game somewhere, because that would way bigger new than the Mountaineers.”
TCU (23-25, 8-11) managed only three singles, including a third-inning blooper by No. 9 hitter Kyle Bacak and Cody Jones’ ensuing bunt. Musgrave retired the next 15 consecutive batters before Jones singled in the eighth.
Normally featuring a fastball and changeup, Musgrave found his curveball — “the first day in a long time that I’ve had a breaking ball,” he said. “If I can throw three pitches, that really helps out a lot. It made my fastball a little bit better today than it really was.”
West Virginia scored the game’s only runs in the seventh on Taylor Munden’s two-out squibber that traveled barely 70 feet along the first-base line. TCU first baseman Derek Odell bobbled the pickup and then frantically flipped the ball over the head of pitcher Preston Morrison racing to the bag.
Odell was assessed two errors on the play as Billy Fleming scored from third base and Bobby Boyd came around all the way from first.
It was an unfair sequence for Morrison (6-3), who pitched five-hit ball over seven-plus innings and lowered his ERA to 1.23
“(Morrison) can really sink his fastball, changes speeds on his breaking ball, and he’s really hard to hit,” said Mazey, who coached TCU’s pitchers the past six seasons.
“He changes swings and never really gives you a pitch to hit. Scratching for two runs off of him, the way we did today, that’s about the only way you can do it.”
Ryan McBroom broke up Morrison’s perfect-game bid in the fifth on a one-out liner that was mishandled by leaping TCU shortstop Keaton Jones. Matt Frazer followed with cue shot down the third-base line that turned into an infield single, and Morrison later hit Alan Filauro to fill the bases before striking out Bobby Boyd.
After Munden’s sharp single to left field led off the sixth, Brady Wilson bunted him to second. But Morrison squelched the threat by whiffing Ryan Tuntland and Jacob Rice on off-speed pitches. Rice fanned three times in the opener, as did TCU designated hitter Kevin Cron.
It made for the sort of low-scoring matchup Musgrave has encountered throughout the Big 12 season.
“You definitely bear down a little bit,” said Musgrave, “because you don’t have any room to make mistakes.”
TCU evened the series with a 7-4 victory in Game 2 of the doubleheader.