MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — On the 11th day of spring, West Virginia and No. 22 Oklahoma played the rubber game of their weekend series amid snow flurries and blustery winds.
“Advantage Mountaineers,” said coach Randy Mazey.
While the weather might’ve assisted, Kade Strowd’s repeated ability to escape jams and Marques Inman’s two-run homer were the real factors in a 5-1 victory Sunday.
After dropping their first four Big 12 games, the Mountaineers (16-11, 2-4) achieved a better frame of mind by posting back-to back wins over the Sooners (22-7, 4-2).
“We’re creeping back in,” Mazey said.
Mixing eight walks with seven strikeouts, Strowd (3-2) threw 115 pitches while surviving five innings of one-run baseball.
“I was talking to guys in the dugout about how I could barely feel the ball when I was releasing it from my hand,” Strowd said. “It really is about being tough and being on your stuff that day.”
Oklahoma left the bases loaded in the first when Strowd fanned Conor McKenna on three pitches. Two runners were aboard in the second when Strowd coaxed a ground out. In the fifth, the West Virginia right-hander made his final pitch to strike out Cade Cavailli and strand two more.
“It comes down to how bad do you want to get out of this inning? How bad do you not want that guy to score?” Strowd said.
Oklahoma finished 0-of-11 with runners in scoring position, though Mazey would prefer Strowd’s not create so many panic situations.
“His two biggest wins of the year — this one and Oregon State — in this one he walked eight and that one he walked nine,” Mazey said. “It’s not the way you draw it up. It’s just a testament to what he does when the guys get on. He makes great pitches when he has to.
“He can make adjustments while he’s out there. He’s the right guy to have on the mound when there’s men on base because he never gets rattled.”
Oklahoma left-hander Levi Prater (5-2) entered with a 0.98 ERA and a 46-7 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 36 innings. With snow swirling, he looked uncomfortable in walking Tyler Doanes and Brandon White to open the game. That led to a 1-0 deficit when Inman’s grounder was mishandled.
“The harder it was snowing the happier I was. To be good in it, you have to practice in it, and we do that all the time,” Mazey said.
Inman made it 3-0 in the third, blasting a 2-0 pitch over the left-field bullpen for his fifth homer. It was the second homer surrendered this season by Prater, who was tagged for four runs over three-plus innings.
“It was a good count in my favor. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss it,” Inman said.
Prater exited the game in the fourth inning after walking leadoff man Tevin Tucker, who subsequently scored on a Doanes sac-fly. Reliever Jaret Goodman also gave up a run on Darius Hill’s groundout.
West Virginia’s bullpen delivered four shutout innings, including Sam Kessler getting the final four outs for his fourth save. Middle reliever Ryan Bergert escaped a first-and-third situation in the sixth inning when Brandon White made a lunging catch against the centerfield wall to rob Oklahoma’s Brylie Ware.
“That was a game-changer for sure,” Mazey said. “It could’ve been 5-3 at that point.”
West Virginia’s pitchers capped a stellar series in which they gave up a combined seven runs to Oklahoma, who came in averaging 6.8 runs per game.
“It was a really tough day to play,” Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson said. “It was snowing and the environment wasn’t good, but I think the biggest thing was that we lost the rhythm of the game in the first couple of innings.”