CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Even an epic bullpen collapse couldn’t spoil West Virginia’s Big 12 baseball opener.
Freshman Jackson Cramer’s walkoff double in the bottom of the 12th capped a wild 8-7 victory after the Mountaineers’ relievers allowed Baylor to extend the game with a five-run ninth.
Teammates mobbed Cramer on the base paths after West Virginia (14-8, 1-0) needed four hours to win the opener of a three-game series at Appalachian Power Park. Baylor, which came in ranked No. 29 in the Collegiate Baseball poll, dipped to 13-12 overall and 4-3 in the league.
With Baylor closer and Big 12 saves leader Josh Michalic (0-2) working his fourth inning, Jacob Rice began the 12th by doubling off the left-field wall. Cramer then delivered the first extra-base hit of his young college career by driving a 1-1 pitch to the wall in center.
“We were at the bottom of the lineup and even if he bunts (Rice) over, you’re not sure if you’re going to win the game with the guys coming up,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “He’s a big strong kid, so you give him a chance to win the game with one swing.”
Cramer, who played his high school ball less than two hours from the Baylor campus, had made only two pinch-hitter appearances in West Virginia’s previous eight games.
“I know I haven’t played much lately, but it was nice to come through when I had my chance,” he said. “I got the green light to swing away. I was sitting on the slider and got my pitch.”
Cramer became the second unlikely hero on Friday, after Max Nogay’s tie-breaking grand slam in the sixth inning seemingly put West Virginia in command. The junior catcher with the .208 career average delivered the first homer allowed by Baylor’s Brad Kuntz this season.
Nogay entered Friday with two RBIs this season and had homered only twice in his previous 143 college at-bats. But he broke a 2-2 deadlock by turning around a first-pitch fastball from Kuntz after the Bears left-hander loaded the bases on a walk, a hit batter and a bloop single by Jacob Rice.
The left-hander Kuntz, who came in with a 4-0 mark and sporting a 1.64 ERA, battled wildness throughout his 6 2/3 innings. He threw only 55 strikes among 101 pitches, walked five and hit as many batters (one) as he struck out.
Kuntz allowed seven earned runs—one more than he had allowed in six previous starts combined—though he avoided his first loss thanks to Baylor’s incredible rally.
Mountaineers ace Harris Musgrave wasn’t his sharpest with four walks, yet remained 6-0 in nine career Big 12 starts. After allowing two runs over seven innings, he appeared headed for his fourth win until the bullpen let a 7-2 lead slip away in a nightmare ninth.
The combination of Corey Walter, Ross Vance and Ryan Tezak forced in runs on two bases-loaded walks and allowed another on a bases-loaded hit batter. Ben Carl’s two-run, two-out single that tied it at 7-all was only Baylor’s second hit of the inning.
“You can’t get so down that the kids in the dugout think the game is over,” Mazey said. “It was still tied.”
Michael Bennett (1-0) finally coaxed a pop-up to end the ninth and delivered another three innings of one-hit pitching for his first win.
“The biggest out of the whole game was when (Baylor) did tie it up and they still had second and third with two outs and we got a pop up to end the inning,” Mazey said.
After Ryan McBroom’s two-run single put WVU ahead in the first inning, Baylor’s Adam Toth answered with a solo homer in the second. Baylor drew even at 2-all in the third when Musgrave walked two batters ahead of Duncan Wendel’s RBI single.
Game 2 of the series is slated for a 4 p.m. start Saturday, with the final game scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday.