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.