STILLWATER, Okla. — By the time West Virginia’s hitters figured out Jason Hursh, the Mountaineers trailed by six runs and were on their way to being eliminating from Big 12 title contention.
Aaron Cornell went deep in the fourth inning and Donnie Walton followed moments later with his first career homer as No. 16 Oklahoma State jumped out to an early lead and sent WVU to its fourth consecutive loss, 7-4, Thursday night.
West Virginia (30-24, 12-10) at Oklahoma State (38-13, 12-9)
Game 1: Oklahoma State 7, West Virginia 4
Game 2: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (Fox College Sports TV)
Game 3: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Radio on the Mountaineer Sports Network with Morgantown WAJR 1440 AM serving as the flagship.
The Cowboys (38-13, 12-9) who climbed ahead of WVU (30-24, 12-10) for third place in the league standings, scored three runs in the third and three more in the fourth. That was ample cushion for Hursh (6-4), who retired the first 11 batters he faced without allowing a ball to escape the infield.
“He’s good, but we sure did make it easy on him with our approach at the plate,” said West Virginia coach Randy Mazey. “When you get guys who hit some home runs and are power hitters, they get a little pull-happy. And anytime you face a guy with good command of his fastball, he’s going to exploit that.
“(Hursch) just pitched to one side of the plate the whole night, and we didn’t adjust to it until we got down by six. Finally we had a hitters’ meeting and said, ‘Hey, if you keep going what you’re doing, you’re going to get shutout.'”
Down 6-0, WVU came alive in the fifth, loading the bases on three consecutive singles by Ryan McBroom, Billy Fleming and Matt Frazer. Alan Filauro’s groundout scored McBroom and Fleming raced home on a wild pitch before Bobby Boyd’s RBI single closed the gap to 6-3.
But WVU right-hander Dan Dierfdorff (4-7), starting a series opener for the first time this season, gave up a leadoff double to Randy McCurry in the bottom of the fifth before Zach Fish lifted a sac-fly.
Despite allowing 10 hits, two walks and hitting a batter, Dierdorff was better than his last start Saturday against TCU when he gave up six runs (four earned) in only 2/3 of an inning. This time he hung around through the seventh, eating up extra innings as Mazey appears set on letting ace left-hander Harrison Musgrave sit out this series.
Kansas State and Oklahoma begin their three-game series Friday to decide the regular-season champion.
With the banner out of reach, Musgrave can rest up for the Big 12 tournament that opens Wednesday in Oklahoma City. West Virginia, on the NCAA bubble before this four-game slide, likely must win the league tournament to advance to a regional.
“I think if we come out and play with energy and play hard, we should still win this series and go into Oklahoma City with a chance to win the tournament,” said Mazey.
But that will take more energy than WVU’s coach saw Thursday night.
“As a coach, you can (accept) a strikeout or making errors, but you can’t get out-hustled, and I thought we did tonight,” he said. “(Oklahoma State) definitely won the battle of energy tonight.”
Hursh fanned five, allowed five hits and exited after throwing 89 pitches in six innings.
“It always starts on the mound, and Jason gave us another very good start,” said Cowboys coach Josh Holiiday. “He pitched with really strong courage coming off a shorter week of rest and such an emotional effort last week. He did a really nice job.”
Vince Wheeland pitched two innings of relief for OSU, allowing Jacob Rice’s RBI single in the eighth, before OSU’s Brendan McCurry threw the ninth for seventh save.
Rice, a Tulsa native who also played a season of junior college ball at Eastern Oklahoma State, went 2-for 4 as did Frazer.
Musgrave was named one of 22 finalists for the College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year Award on Thursday.
The redshirt sophomore joined Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray as the lone Big 12 representatives. Those two also are the frontrunners for the conference’s pitcher of the year honor.