GRANVILLE, W.Va. – A day after facing the most touted pitching prospect in college baseball, West Virginia swung its bats like it saw his ghost.
TCU junior Charles King surprisingly out-pitched either of the aces who were on display for dozens of Major League scouts Friday night, leading the Horned Frogs to a comfortable 6-1 win over No. 17 West Virginia on Saturday afternoon at Mon County Ballpark.
King (4-2) threw a complete game, allowing one unearned run on four hits and a walk to go with eight strikeouts.
Desperate to crawl into NCAA tournament consideration, the Horned Frogs (26-19, 8-9 Big 12) took the fight to the off-balance Mountaineers (27-17, 10-10) early. TCU opened the game with a Josh Watson leadoff homer and never relented against West Virginia starter Jackson Wolf, chasing him from the game in the fourth inning.
“That’s a program that played in the College World Series four straight years,” Mazey said. “When May 1st rolls around, that’s when that experience shows up. I don’t think it’s so much the position they’re in now as it’s the position they’ve put their program in the last six or seven years.
“You get late-season winning in your blood, and it’s hard to get it out of your blood.”
Wolf (2-3) allowed seven hits in 3 1/3 innings, three of which were sharply hit doubles. The last straw for Wolf was Zach Humphreys’ RBI double to give the Horned Frogs a 4-0 lead. Humphreys would become the fifth run tacked on to Wolf’s pitching line, scoring from third when reliever Dillon Meadows induced a ground out.
King got lucky to avoid early trouble. A two-out Marques Inman double in the bottom of the first bounded over the wall, keeping Brandon White at third base. White would have scored from first had the ball stayed in the park off the bounce. King got Ivan Gonzalez to ground out to short to end that threat, then never had to break another sweat until the seventh inning.
“That’s just the bad luck of baseball,” said senior right fielder Darius Hill. “Obviously that ties the game if it hits the wall.”
Even though opponents came into the game hitting .267 off of him this season, King allowed only one hit and one walk from the second-through-sixth innings.
West Virginia’s only peep of offense came in the seventh, and it was set up by a leadoff throwing error that allowed Gonzalez to reach second base. Kevin Brophy came off the bench for a single to move him to third, and fellow substitute Tristen Hudson drove him in with a ground out.
West Virginia’s starting lineup finished the game hitting a meek .111 (3-for-27) against King.
The Mountaineers look to be in desperate need of slugger Paul McIntosh, who has been out since last Saturday’s game at Texas with what Mazey calls a “day-to-day” injury. McIntosh leads the team with seven home runs and is tied for the team lead with 28 RBI.
“It’s pretty difficult to replace him,” Mazey said. “Batting average can be the biggest confidence-killer in the world. Those poor kids [replacing him] walk up there and see those batting averages up on the scoreboard. We’ve been trying to find that piece all season and we just haven’t found it yet. We have to keep trying to find that guy until Paul comes back.”
Junior pitcher Kade Strowd (4-5), a Fort Worth, Texas native, will start for the Mountaineers Sunday as they try to avoid getting swept by his hometown school. Strowd’s best performance this season came under similar circumstances when he allowed no runs on one hit to help West Virginia win the final game of its series at Oregon State.