FORT WORTH, Texas — West Virginia stood just three outs shy of a 3-0 conference start, until its shaky bullpen showed more cracks and TCU capitalized for a comeback.

The Horned Frogs needed just two hits while staging a three-run, ninth-inning rally—capped by Dylan Fitzgerald’s walk-off sacrifice fly—that beat West Virginia 4-3 in Friday night’s opener of a three-game series.

The Mountaineers (16-9, 2-1 Big 12) saw their four-game winning streak snapped, and saw once again how quickly their bullpen can unravel.

For the third time this season, ace left-hander Harrison Musgrave pitched WVU to a late-innings lead only to see it squandered. One week ago, it was Baylor erasing a 7-2 lead in the ninth. This time Musgrave left with a 3-1 lead, having thrown 116 pitches over seven innings.

But three West Virginia relievers combined to throw only 21 strikes among their 45 pitches and the bullpen’s record dropped to 3-7.

After TCU (17-12, 3-4) put the potential tying runs aboard in the eighth against Pascal Paul using a single and a hit batter, Corey Walter ended the threat by coaxing a pop-up to shortstop.

Walter’s ninth inning didn’t go as well, however. He walked pinch-hitter Dylan Delso and Keaton Jones to start the mess before giving way to Michael Bennett (2-1).

Bennett, the right-hander who extinguished the fire against Baylor, couldn’t repeat the feat. Derek Odell’s bunt down the third-base line turned into a single when Michael Constantini threw wide of the bag at first. With the bases loaded, Bennett fell behind 2-0 in the count before Boomer White lined a single into center field and trimmed the lead to 3-2.

When Kevin Cron tied the game on a sac-fly to medium right field, West Virginia caught a break when Odell failed to tag and remained at second base. Yet Bennett negated that advantage four pitches later by walking Jeremie Fagnan to reload the bases. Fitzgerald followed with a fly ball to deep right that afforded WVU’s Trevor Simms no chance of making a play on Odell at the plate.

The game was scoreless until West Virginia mounted two-out momentum in the sixth, with Billy Fleming singling and Ryan McBroom walking. That preceded Rice lashing a 2-2 pitch off the right-field wall for his first triple of the season.

That marked the 100th and final pitch for TCU starter Brandon Finnegan, who allowed four hits over 5 2/3 innings while striking out seven.

Musgrave, who fanned five while lowering his season ERA to 1.96, endured his biggest rough patch in the bottom of the sixth. He allowed four singles, including Jones’ RBI hit to left, yet limited the damage by striking out Cain with the bases loaded.

TCU reliever Trey Teakell (1-0) went the final 3 1/3 innings and allowed only two hits—both in the seventh, when Taylor Munden’s two-out, two-hopper through the left side scored Constantini to make it 3-1.

The rest of the series is scheduled to unfold in a Saturday doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern.

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  • Rick55

    Can't win em all! The bullpen had a bad night but have more often than not got the job done and while starting pitching remains the strength of this team, hopefully the pen will be good enough to keep us in games. Great opportunity today to make it right. And Aaron once again you have proven your analyst skills by saying that toward the end of the season, Coach will be able to sprinkle in a starter or two at crunch time.

    • Mister Man

      The bullpen has not more often than not got the job done. The bullpen has a 3-7 record.

      • Mister Man

        Go Mountaineers. NCAA Tourney bound.

  • jay zoom

    minor setback -- they bring it around today

  • Baldeagle

    Maybe coach needs to let Musgrave go a little further innings wise, obviously you can't depend on the bullpen to help.

    • Capt. Obvious

      What would your limit for number of pitches be and how many more games are you planning on starting Harrison?

  • Aaron

    This is why baseball is such a consummate team sport. If you're weak in one area, it can kill you. It takes time to build a great bullpen and one great player can't carry a team.

    Keep developing arms and coaching these guys up and once you get in the short season of the post season, back end starters can help the bullpen.

  • David Kennedy

    Still a great start for a great team.
    I've waited for these kids to 'jell and this is the year...
    Go Mountaineers !!!