MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After waiting nearly four years and suffering 11 straight losses to TCU, the West Virginia baseball team had to wait a bit longer to finally break the jinx.
The Mountaineers squandered a three-run cushion in the ninth inning Friday night but recovered in the bottom half to edge the No. 3-ranked Frogs 5-4 on Ivan Gonzalez’s walk-off sacrifice fly.
Those fireworks cracking above Monongalia County Ballpark brought sweet relief for West Virginia (20-12, 7-3), which last beat TCU (27-6, 8-2) on May 24, 2013. The moment loomed even sweeter for the catcher Gonzalez, who blamed himself for not smothering Braden Zarbnisky’s wild pitch that yielded TCU’s tying run.
“I had just missed a blocked ball I usually don’t miss, and I was in the dugout with my head down,” he said. “But all the guys came around, picked me up and said, ‘Hey, you’ll get another shot’ and sure enough I did.”
Jimmy Galusky rejuvenated the West Virginia dugout by opening the bottom of the ninth with a leadoff double down the first-base line, and he waited on third after Brandon White’s bunt.
Once TCU reliever Sean Wyler (2-2) intentionally walked Kyle Gray to set up a double play, Gonzalez squared to bunt himself while taking a low pitch. Ultimately he lined a 3-0 fastball that forced Frogs left fielder Josh Watson to make an over-the-shoulder grab, allowing Gausky to tag and score uncontested.
“When Pudge decides he wants to play offense and get a swing off, that’s what he can do,” said Mountaineers coach Randy Mazey.
West Virginia appeared in command with starter BJ Myers taking a 4-1 lead into the ninth. The right-hander gave up an unearned run in the first inning and did not allow another TCU runner past first base until Evan Skoug homered to start the final inning.
Myers still led 4-2 with one out and a TCU runner aboard when Mazey called upon Zarbnisky (4-0), who allowed two hits, two walks and the curveball that skipped through Gonzalez.
Despite blowing the save, Zarbnisky kept the game deadlocked by jamming Cam Werner to induce a bases-loaded groundout from the Frogs’ RBI leader.
“Really, the biggest pitch of the game was that 2-2 fastball in to Werner,” Mazey said. “Zarbnisky executing that pitch in that situation is what gave us energy.”
Myers was stellar in the no-decision, allowing six hits and two earned runs over 8 1/3 innings. He fanned six, walked one and threw 80 of his 126 pitches for strikes.
“I definitely had my command tonight,” Myers said. “But I told (Mazey) going into the ninth I was just about out of gas.”
Watching the lead vanish from the bench, Myers admitted to having TCU flashbacks — prompted by the Mountaineers having gone 0-7 against their nemesis during his career.
“It was like ‘Uh-oh, here we go again.’ I mean, shoot, we haven’t beat them in a long time,” Myers said. “But then guys really picked each other up. We’re a team that keeps fighting.”
Friday’s crowd of 2,914 — the third-largest in the ballpark’s four-year history — saw West Virginia move within a game of TCU for the Big 12 lead. The series continues Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at noon.
“This kind of brings a little swagger. We know we can hang with them,” Myers said. “They ended our season last year (in the Big 12 tournament championship), so we wanted a little revenge and I think we got that.”
The Frogs had won 13 straight games over the past 25 dayys, one shy of matching the program’s longest winning streak.
TCU ace Jared Janczak, who entered with a 6-0 record and a 1.79 ERA, appeared destined for his first loss before the ninth-inning reset.
Cole Austin’s two-out RBI single put West Virginia up 4-1 in the fifth and finished off Janczak’s shortest outing of the season.
After TCU’s brawny designated hitter Luken Baker doubled in a run in the first, West Virginia needed only two batters to score the equalizer in the bottom half. Kyle Gray led off with a triple into the right-field corner and scored on a sac-fly by Gonzalez.
Darius Hil’s line-drive single deflected off Janczak’s pitching hand to start a two-run fourth. Kyle Davis followed with a triple before Zarbnisky’s fly ball to center made it 3-1.