NORMAN, Okla. — West Virginia’s five-run first inning was exactly the kind of cushion John Means appreciated.
Working with a comfortable lead, Means threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers whipped Oklahoma 7-0 in Thursday night’s opener of a three-game series.
Freshman designated hitter Jackson Cramer was 3-for-3 with two RBIs for West Virginia (18-15, 3-6), which broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak by pounding out 16 hits. Oklahoma (24-15, 4-6) dropped its fourth straight league game, all at home.
Means (5-1) skipped last weekend’s appearance with shoulder soreness after throwing only three innings in his previous start at TCU on April 5. But the left-hander was sharp this time out, scattering seven singles and one walk while striking out six batters in his second-longest outing of the year.
“I predicted that he would be rusty, but he was anything but rusty. That’s as good as I’ve seen John Means,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. ”His velocity slacked off later in the game, but that’s because he hasn’t been extended the last couple of weeks.”
Means threw 63 of his 88 pitches for strikes.
“You’ve gotta tip your cap to that kind of guy,” said Oklahoma catcher Mac James said. “He put up eight zeroes in a row and we couldn’t get the hang of it. It looked like a good pitch to hit and he beat us.”
Along with Cramer’s career-best night, Bobby Boyd and Billy Fleming also had three hits. Freshman Shaun Wood and Jacob Rice had two hits each.
West Virginia jumped out to a 5-0 lead on six hits in the top of the first, sending eight batters against Oklahoma right-hander Corey Copping (2-1).
Taylor Munden, Boyd and Fleming opened with three straight singles to make it 1-0 before Rice’s double down the left-field line scored two more. After an RBI groundout by Cam O’Brien made it 4-0, Cramer added an run-scoring single to left.
Though Copping settled down to pitch a career-long seven innings—allowing six runs on 13 hits with six strikeouts and no walks—the Sooners were in too deep a hole against Means.
“The wind is blowing in and you have a really good lefty on the mound,” said Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes. “You have to be super disciplined and scratch some runs off of him. When a kid is that settled in and you are chasing five, it feels like a lot more than a five-run lead.”
Cramer’s third single of the game scored Rice in the sixth, extending WVU’s lead to 6-0.
The Mountaineers added on in the ninth when Munden walked against Sooners reliever Alec Hansen, advanced to third by a Boyd single and scored on Fleming’s infield chopper. The seven runs were West Virginia’s highest total since an 8-7 extra-inning win over Baylor on March 28.
Oklahoma’s best threat came in the sixth with one out and runners on second and third base. But Means struck out Joshua Ake and made a no-look grab on a grounder back to the mound by Sheldon Neuse.
“You’ve gotta tip your cap to that kind of guy. (Means) put up eight zeroes in a row and we couldn’t get the hang of it. It looked like a good pitch to hit and he beat us.” — Oklahoma catcher Mac James
Austin O’Brien and Taylor Alspaugh each had two hits for the Sooners, who have been shut out twice in Big 12 play and four times overall.
Junior left-hander Harrison Musgrave will start Friday night’s game for the Mountaineers, opposing sophomore left-hander Adam Choplick.
“We’ve got to be careful and can’t let game one beat us twice,” Hughes said. “I know we’re all frustrated and aggravated, but we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves because we’ve got a pretty good arm, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, coming at us tomorrow.”