OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — It was breakfast at the ballpark as West Virginia edged Kansas 10-9 in the opener of the 2014 Big 12 baseball tournament, a game of far greater consequence to the bubble-bound Mountaineers.
Recount the live updates from throughout the morning from Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, where the double-elimination bracket began unfolding with WVU’s mother-of-all comebacks:
BOTTOM 9th: WVU wins 10-9
Nothing’s easy where the West Virginia bullpen is concerned and Carley made the ninth interesting with a leadoff walk to Colby Wright and a two-out pass to Tucker Tharp.
Finally, breathlessly, on yet another 3-2 pitch, Carley retired Conner McKay on fly ball to right-center. McKay, KU’s top power hitter with nine home runs, slammed down his helmet after just getting under a Carley fastball.
BOTTOM 8th: WVU leads 10-9
Kansas scored a run to tighten the game, but left ‘em loaded.
Pascal Paul hit the leadoff batter before Tucker Tharp doubled off the wall in left-center, putting the tying runs in scoring position. That was Sean Carley’s cue, but the WVU closer had a tough time. He got the first out on a line drive speared by second baseman Billy Fleming, and recorded No. 2 on fly ball to shallow left. Then he walked pinch-hitter Michael Tinsley to load the bases and hit pinch-hitter Jacob Boylan with a 3-1 pitch to force home a run.
Finally, after 27 high-drama pitches, Carley closed out the eighth on Justin Protacio’s pop up to shallow left.
TOP 7th: WVU leads 10-8
Welp, West Virginia just reversed its sagging fortunes with an eight-run seventh-inning explosion. Jackson Cramer had two hits in the inning, including a go-ahead three-run bomb to right field, his first collegiate homer.
Suddenly handed a six-run lead, Piche developed control problems and walked two batters to load the bases after the Cramer leadoff single. Out went Piche (and his 11 Ks) and in came Drew Morovick, whose pitches found a lot of WVU bats. The reliever was charged for four runs in only 1/3 of an inning. He surrendered an RBI double to McBroom, a two-run double to Jacob Rice and an RBI single to Brad Johnson.
In Morovick’s defense, or rather not in his defense, he should have induced an inning-ending third-to-first double play, but KU’s Aaron Hernandez bobbled the grounder and only got the force out at third.
BOTTOM 6th: Kansas leads 8-2
Tagged for a season-high six runs, Musgrave didn’t have it today. He allowed nine hits, two walks and exited after 5 2/3 innings—the first time he hasn’t gone six innings since the season opener against Louisville. Musgrave struck out only one.
Ryan Pidhaichuk opened the sixth with a double before Protacio singled through a drawn-in infield. After Ryan Tezak came on to replace Musgrave, Kansas opened up the margin with a two-run single by Dakota Smith and Tucker Tharp’s RBI double to deep center.
TOP 6th: Kansas leads 4-2
After Cam O’Brien goes down swinging, Piche now owns 11 strikeouts. He also has zero walks, which has helped keep his pitch count reasonable at 91 through six innings. He figures to have at least one more inning in him.
BOTTOM 5th: Kansas leads 4-2
The Jayhawks’ four-run outburst quickly altered the complexion of this game. Musgrave allowed a leadoff double to Aaron Hernandez, which was followed by Justin Protacio’s sac bunt to third, which resulted in Constantini’s throwing error, which led to runners on the corners with none out.
Musgrave wild-pitched Herndandez home—his third wild pitch in the last seven innings—before Michael Suiter’s one-out double off the top of the left-field wall tied it at 2-all.
The rally didn’t stop there for the Jayhawks, however. Dakota Smith singled and Tucker Tharpe lifted a two-run double over Bobby Boyd in center field. Kansas had four hits in the inning—three for extra bases.
TOP 4th: WVU leads 2-0
Jackson Cramer whiffs on a changeup and Michael Constantini flails late at a fastball as Piche continues to handle West Virginia’s lineup impressively. He has nine strikeouts through four innings, surpassing his career-high of seven strikeouts
BOTTOM 3rd: WVU leads 2-0
Musgrave pitched around Colby Wright’s one-out single during an otherwise quiet inning. After a wild first inning, West Virginia’s ace has reined in his control problems and settled his pitch count as well. He has thrown 41—still only 20 for strikes—through three innings.
TOP 3rd: WVU leads 2-0
The Mountaineers might be grateful they got to Jordan Piche for those early unearned runs because the KU right-hander looks sharp otherwise. He has six strikeouts through three innings, several on an awfully deceptive changeup.
BOTTOM 1st: WVU leads 2-0
Harrison Musgrave survived two walks and a double by Dakota Smith thanks to a terrific two-out catch by an unlikely source. Right fielder Brad Johnson, a converted infielder who has misplayed a couple pop flies recently, made a lunging shoestring grab on Connor McKay’s blooper.
Johnson’s newfound gold glove saved at least two runs and got Musgrave to the dugout after a 24-pitch inning that included only eight strikes.
TOP 1st: WVU leads 2-0
A terrific two-out at-bat by Billy Fleming started a rally, bolstered by some shoddy Kansas defense.
Fleming narrowly missed a two-strike double down the left-field line before poking a single to right. After Ryan McBroom chopped an infield single up the middle, Jacob Rice hit a comebacker off KU pitcher Jordan Piche, which second baseman Colby Wright fielded and flipped wide of first, allowing Fleming to score.
The second run scored when Rice purposefully induced a rundown and beat the throw back to first as McBroom raced home. Technically it was scored a steal of home by McBroom, quite a bragging point for perhaps the slowest guy in the lineup.