West Virginia’s magic in Oklahoma City ran out Friday as the eighth-seeded Mountaineers suffered consecutive losses in the Big 12 Conference Baseball Championship that brings their season to an end.
After a 12-2 seven-inning defeat to No. 4 seed Oklahoma State moved West Virginia to the loser’s bracket, the Mountaineers gave top seed Texas all it could handle, but fell short 3-2 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
West Virginia (25-27) fell behind the Longhorns (42-14) in the third inning without yielding a hit. Texas drew two walks, which combined with Jacob Watters hitting a batter, allowed the Longhorns to load the bases. Trey Faltine scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch, though Watters struck out back-to-back batters to keep the deficit 1-0.
“We just haven’t thrown strikes consistently the whole season,” West Virginia manager Randy Mazey said. “They weren’t any more nervous today than they were all season. We just have to get back to throwing strikes.”
Texas appeared set to add to its lead in the fourth when it drew three walks to load the bases, but Austin Davis made a highlight-worthy catch in right field to take away a grand slam from Mike Antico.
“A lot of times when you’re not swinging the bats very well and have nothing going on offense, it really helps to make a great defensive play,” Mazey said. “That momentum went from their dugout to ours in one defensive play. He does that stuff all the time. He had a tremendous year for us and is a tremendous player. That had an opportunity to change the game.”
Sure enough, West Virginia put together a two-out rally in the top of the fifth to take a 2-1 lead. Braden Barry doubled and moved to third on Davis’ bunt single. After Davis stole second, Matt McCormick singled to plate a pair. WVU had a chance to add more in the inning, but Hudson Byorick grounded out with two runners on.
Silas Ardoin’s two-run double in the sixth off Madison Jeffrey allowed Texas to regain the lead and marked one of just three Longhorn hits, though they did draw 10 walks.
“Watters and Jeffrey beat the heck out of their bats,” Mazey said. “They didn’t put the ball in play until about nine o’clock. Their first ball in play was a bunt. We were either walking them or striking them out. That’s what Watters and Jeffrey have done all season long. Those guys have special arms and we just have to work on getting them to command their fastball a little better.”
The Mountaineers didn’t record a hit after the fifth inning, though Kevin Brophy drew a one-out walk in the ninth after he appeared to think he struck out looking on a 2-2 pitch. Although Tyler Doanes struck out for the second out, pinch-runner Ben Abernathy stole second and third, but Barry struck out to end the game.
Making his first start of the season, Watters threw 74 pitches in three innings, striking out eight and walking four without yielding a hit. Jeffrey suffered the loss, allowing two runs in 2 1/3 innings and walking five.
Noah Short threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Jeffrey and struck out four, helping WVU’s staff strike out 14 in the season-ending loss.
“We just lined them up one to ten whoever we thought our best pitches are and we’re going to use them in that order,” Mazey said. “You can’t lose two games in one day without pitching those guys.”
McCormick was the only player from either team with two hits.
Texas’ Pete Hansen had nine strikeouts and got the win after allowing two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. Tanner Witt struck out four over 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the save.
The Mountaineers’ day began with a 12-2 loss to Oklahoma State in which starting pitcher Carlson Reed recorded only one out among the five batters he faced.
After the contest scheduled for Thursday was postponed, the Cowboys (34-16-1) wasted no time building a five-run lead that proved insurmountable. OSU got first-inning RBI singles from Jake Thompson and Carson McCusker, before Justin Campbell cleared the bases with a double after Jake Carr had taken over for Reed on the mound.
McCusker’s three-run home run in the second upped the advantage to 8-0.
Alec Burns homered for WVU in the fourth to make it a six-run game, but the Cowboys scored two apiece in the fifth and seventh innings to end it early.
Parker Scott picked up the win to improve to 7-1 after striking out five and allowing two runs in four innings. Bryce Osmond struck out seven over the final three innings to record a save.
McCusker, Campbell and Christian Encarnacion-Strand had three hits apiece to lead the Cowboys’ 18-hit attack.
Burns’ home run marked one of only four WVU hits in the setback.
West Virginia had beaten Kansas 8-7 in walk-0ff fashion Tuesday to prolong its season, before knocking off Texas 5-1 on the strength of Jackson Wolf’s complete game Wednesday.
Friday’s Big 12 Championship Results
No. 2 TCU 7, No. 3 Texas Tech 2
No. 7 Kansas State 7, No. 3 Texas Tech 2
No. 4 Oklahoma State 12, No. 8 West Virginia 2 (7 innings)
No. 1 Texas 3, No. 8 West Virginia 2
Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Schedule
Game 12 — No. 2 TCU vs. No. 7 Kansas State, 10 a.m.
Game 13 — No. 4 Oklahoma State vs. No. 1 Texas, 1:30 p.m.
Game 14 — No. 2 TCU vs. No. 7 Kansas State, 5 p.m. (If Kansas State wins Game 12)
Game 15 — No. 4 Oklahoma State vs. No. 1 Texas, 8:30 p.m. (If Texas wins wins Game 13)