PITTSBURGH, Pa. — After West Virginia won its fourth consecutive game—and its second Backyard Brawl matchup in eight days—coach Randy Mazey found himself in the unusual position of trying to temper the enthusiasm around his steadily improving ballclub.
“I like where we’re at right now, but we can’t start drinking the Kool-Aid just yet,” Mazey said after the Mountaineers beat Pitt 6-4 on Tuesday night to sweep the two-game season series.
“We’ll feel good about this one on the bus on the way home, but when we get to practice tomorrow we’re going to start planning for TCU.”
West Virginia (16-8) saw its RPI climb to No. 12 nationally and dealt Pitt (15-12) its first home loss of the season after eight straight wins.
Catcher Cam O’Brien lifted his batting average from .187 to .209 by putting West Virginia ahead twice, the last time for good on a two-run single in the seventh against Pitt reliever Sam Mersing (1-1). O’Brien’s three RBIs matched his previous season total and gave Mazey some long-awaited production from the No. 8 hole.
“I’ve been waiting for Cam to come along and come along,” Mazey said. “He’s actually been swigging the bat OK, but he just hasn’t been getting any hits.”
“It was really good to see that happen to him because he’ll go into this weekend with some confidence, and confidence is everything to a hitter.
Bobby Boyd enjoyed a three-hit day, including a first-inning double that led to him scoring on a wild pitch by Pitt starter TJ Zeuch. Boyd leads the Mountaineers in batting (.375) and runs (28).
West Virginia left-hander John Means, whose scheduled start last weekend against Baylor was rained out, threw 55 pitches over 2 2/3 innings. He walked two, hit one batter and allowed three hits in what served as a tuneup for next Sunday’s start in Fort Worth.
After the third inning began with Jacob Rice dropping a fly ball in left, Means surrendered a two-run single by Casey Roche that sent Pitt in front 2-1.
“(Means) was basically just getting ready to pitch on Sunday against TCU, because conference means everything to us,” Mazey said. “We have to finish well in the conference and if he wouldn’t have pitched this week, he would’ve had over two weeks off since he pitched last. He needed to get out there and face some hitters, and it was good that he did.”
WVU answered against Zeuch with a three-run fourth—one of those unearned thanks to a throwing error by Pitt second baseman Matt Johnson. O’Brien’s double made it 3-2 before Cody Semler’s one-out bunt single scored WVU’s fourth run.
After Pascal Paul stranded two Panthers runners in the bottom of the fourth, Mazey turned to Michael Bennett (2-0) who earned the victory despite giving up the lead in the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Steven Shelinsky and Jordan Frabasilio.
West Virginia set the stage for O’Brien in the seventh, however, using Ryan McBroom’s leadoff double and two-out walks to Shaun Wood and Justin Fox. The junior catcher poked a 2-2 pitch up the middle and the Mountaineers were ahead to stay.
Pitt made a charge in the ninth against WVU closer Corey Walter, who worked 2 1/3 innings for his fourth save. The last two outs were clutch after Pitt put the potential tying runs aboard with singles.
“We’re disappointed with the outcome today,” Pitt coach Joe Jordano said. “We made some mistakes not only offensively, but on the mound today. When you’re playing a quality team like West Virginia, those things are going to come back to bite you, and they did. Unfortunately, we didn’t do enough to overcome that and the result is what it is.”