MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia coach Randy Mazey displayed a quick hook Sunday, yanking starter Michael Bennett just four batters and 11 pitches into the game. Only it wasn’t quick enough.
Bennett’s 1/3 of an inning included a single and two four-pitch walks that sparked No. 18 Oklahoma State to four early runs. That proved too big a deficit for the free-falling Mountaineers, who failed on several chances to catch up and lost their seventh straight, 7-4.
The Cowboys (26-10, 8-4) accomplished their first Big 12 road sweep since 2012 despite being out-hit 12-10 by West Virginia (16-15, 2-6), which remained a half-game ahead of last-place Kansas State in the league.
The Mountaineers, playing before 1,287 fans at Hawley Field, suffered back-to-back conference sweeps for the first time since 2010 in the Big East.
Bennett (2-3), pressed into his second start of the season because of John Means’ sore shoulder, allowed a lead-off single to Saulyer Saxon followed by a sac bunt. When the right-hander’s next eight pitches missed the plate, the bases were jammed and Mazey was peeved.
“I’ve been known as a patient guy, but there’s only so much you can take,” Mazey said. “You just can’t hand them runs.”
On came reliever Zach Bargeron, who didn’t fare much better. He hit Gage Green to force in one run and balked home another before Zach Fish bounced a two-run single up the middle to make it 4-0.
“(The losing streak) has been really tough … but one win and we’ll be out of it.” — WVU center fielder Bobby Boyd
After the Cowboys left the bases full—among the 14 runners they stranded—West Virginia’s first five hitters reached safely against Oklahoma State starter Tyler Nurdin. Ryan McBroom’s RBI single and Jacob Rice’s bases-loaded walk cut the gap to 4-2 with none out before Nurdin stopped the bleeding. Max Nogay’s grounder to third led to a force at home, and then McBroom was cut down trying to tag on Brad Johnson’s fly ball to medium right field.
“We out-hit them and our at-bats were good,” Mazey said. “We’re just in a spell right now where we’re not getting hits with two outs.”
The Mountaineers wound up stranding nine, including two runners in scoring position in the second inning after Billy Fleming’s RBI double made it 4-3. McBroom, the team’s top run-producer, grounded out to third against reliever Vance Wheeland (3-0), who replaced Nurdin after 1 2/3 innings.
McBroom finished with three hits, while Bobby Boyd was 4-for-5. Both endured painful plays that only added to the misery of the losing skid: Boyd took a foul liner off his knee as he led off from third base, and McBroom banged his leg on a bench in the right-field bullpen while chasing a pop-foul that dropped into the temporary bleachers.
“(The losing streak) has been really tough … but one win and we’ll be out of it,” said Boyd, who’s hitting a team-best .364. “I think things will start turning around.”
Wheeland earned the victory for OSU, allowing one unearned run over 6 1/3 innings. Brendan McCurry pitched the final inning for his ninth save of the season and the 17th of his career, matching the Cowboys’ all-time mark.
“Vinnie Wheeland came in and did what he does—he fired strikes, he got out of a couple of jams and he competed extremely well,” OSU coach Josh Holliday said. “Our bullpen has proven to be a trademark for us to this point.”
If there was a positive glimmer for WVU’s beleaguered bullpen, it was a 103-pitch stint by Ryan Tezak, who held OSU to two runs on five hits over six innings.
“It was a tough weekend—there’s three or four big innings that killed us,” Tezak said. “(Oklahoma State’s) a tough ballclub. We’re not playing very well right now and they are, but we still think we can win a bunch of ballgames coming up.”
West Virginia, whose RPI had risen to No. 11 just nine days ago, closed Sunday at No. 45.
Next up, the Mountaineers host Ohio State (21-15) on Tuesday at 6 p.m.