OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Disheartened by his team’s untimely three-week slump, Randy Mazey fretted what could be “a miserable summer” should West Virginia fail to make the NCAA field.
The Mountaineers certainly endured a miserable exit from the Big 12 tournament.
Their bats neutered by Baylor freshman Nick Lewis, their psyche dented by seeing the go-ahead run erased on a blown call, and their defense culpable for fueling Baylor’s five-run seventh, the Mountaineers sustained a 9-4 elimination loss Friday afternoon.
After dropping two of three games and batting just .252 in a tournament meant to bolster their postseason hopes, West Virginia awaits Monday’s unveiling of the NCAA baseball bracket having gone 1-9 in their last 10 games.
“If this is our last game, it’s going to make for a miserable summer, that’s for sure,” Mazey said.
“Just like in boxing and MMA, they tell you don’t leave it in the hands of the judges, and that’s what we’ve done at this point. Hopefully they’ll look at our entire body of work and not just the last week or two.”
“Just like in boxing and MMA, they tell you don’t leave it in the hands of the judges, and that’s what we’ve done at this point. Hopefully they look at our entire body of work and not just the last week or two.” — WVU coach Randy Mazey
Sixth-seeded West Virginia (28-26) sported a No. 33 RPI as of Friday night, a ranking that doesn’t portend to fluctuate much before the selection committee finalizes its 64 bids.
Seventh-seeded Baylor (26-30) may have played spoiler thanks to a surprising effort from Lewis (3-2), who was making only his third start after spending much of the spring in the bullpen. Recovering from a long first-inning homer by Billy Fleming, the right-hander limited West Virginia to two runs on two hits over a career-high six innings.
“He stepped up for his ball club, being a freshman and all that,” Fleming said. “We just didn’t have it today with the sticks.”
Lewis fanned five, walked three and retired 13 of 15 hitters in one stretch.
“For him to perform that well as a freshman against a really good veteran offense in an elimination game is pretty special,” said Baylor coach Steve Smith.
Lewis’ 99th and final pitch resulted in the game’s most controversial play.
With the score tied at 2 in the sixth and Ryan McBroom stationed on first, Jacob Rice yanked a two-out double into the left-field corner. Mazey waved McBroom home, where the big first baseman was called out after a perfect relay throw from shortstop Bret Doe. Video replays, however, appeared to show catcher Nate Goodwin unable to make the tag as McBroom slid.
Baylor capitalized on that momentum in its ensuing at-bat, striking for five runs on only three hits. All the runs came at the expense of West Virginia’s Ross Vance (3-4), who lost for the fourth straight outing but deserved better.
With the bases loaded and one out, Vance induced a grounder by Joe Sabatini—what should have been WVU’s fourth double play of the game. But shortstop Taylor Munden tossed the ball into right field, the Mountaineers’ second error of the inning, and two go-ahead runs scored.
Baylor tacked on another run with a safety squeeze before reliever Sean Carley inherited a bases-loaded scenario and allowed two more runs by issuing a walk and hit batter.
Vance, who had surrendered solo homers to Doe and Aaron Dobson, was charged with seven runs, four earned, on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.
“A couple mistakes hurt me today, and I wasn’t able to pick it up,” said Vance.
Though his fastball rarely touches the mid-80s, the left-hander noticed his velocity was especially lacking.
“A couple miles per hour helps me be able to stick it inside sometimes and keep hitters off-balance,” he said.
Baylor, which ranked at the bottom of the Big 12 with a .232 team average, added more eighth-inning insurance against Carley on Logan Brown’s two-run triple.
In the ninth, West Virginia’s pinch-hitters produced two runs on an RBI single Ray Guerrini and Justin Fox’s sac-fly. But that wasn’t nearly enough to save the Mountaineers, who led for only six of 27 innings in Oklahoma City.
“I really hope we get the opportunity to play another game with this squad,” said Carley. “We’re pretty tight, so this loss hits home for us. We’ll see in the coming days how it all plays out.”