While Mountaineers fell short, Watters proved his worth against Texas

Randy Mazey went against the norm Friday for West Virginia’s second game of the day in the Big 12 Conference Baseball Championship.

After the Mountaineers lost 12-2 in seven innings against Oklahoma State, they immediately jumped back into action against top seed Texas.

With the Mountaineers’ top pitcher Jackson Wolf not available and WVU short on pitching depth, Mazey opted to give reliever Jacob Watters his first start of the season.

Although West Virginia fell short with a season-ending 3-2 loss, the results for Watters were mostly positive. The right-handed sophomore struggled with his control and needed 74 pitches to complete three innings, but held the Longhorns to one run without surrendering a hit, while striking out eight.

“We told him not to change his routine of getting loose for a game too much,” Mazey said. “You don’t want to flip that whole thing. He prepared to start the game as he normally does as a reliever. I thought he was good enough to help us win the game, which is what we needed.”

Watters hit a batter and threw a wild pitch that resulted in him allowing his only run. But the Rocky Gap, Virginia native also showed the level he’s capable of pitching at by striking out eight of the 13 batters he faced against the second-ranked team in the nation.

“That’s good for the future to know that he’s capable of starting games, because that guy has a chance to be one of the best pitchers that West Virginia has ever seen,” Mazey said. “We have to get him in the strike zone a little bit more and figure out the best way to use him.”

Watters was spelled by Madison Jeffrey, who suffered the loss after allowing two runs and walking five in 2 1/3 innings. Jeffrey gave up all three of Texas’ hits, and nearly gave up a fourth along with four more runs, but Austin Davis’ catch at the wall took a grand slam away from Mike Antico in the fourth inning.

Mazey said he and his coaching staff numbered the team’s pitchers from one through 10 to start the day in an effort to use the top arms, regardless of when they were accustomed to pitching.

In the loss to the Cowboys, starter Carlson Reed was charged with four runs and recorded only one out. He was relieved by Jake Carr, who was tagged for four runs in 2 2/3 innings. The Mountaineers were hardly in the game and faced a 5-0 deficit through one inning, which grew to eight runs by the end of two innings.

Although West Virginia didn’t get its third win this season over Texas to prolong its stay in Oklahoma City at least another day, the Mountaineers were competitive throughout thanks to their ability hold the Longhorns’ offense in check.

Jeffrey yielded a two-run double to Silas Ardoin the sixth inning that turned a one-run lead into a one-run deficit and proved to make the difference.

WVU also got the tying run to third base in the ninth inning, but Braden Barry’s strikeout ended the contest.

Now it’s on to the offseason for West Virginia after finishing 25-27 this season, including 10-18 in games against Big 12 Conference opponents.

“Every time we come here, we usually play pretty well and we’re super competitive,” Mazey said. “Kind of like a golfer who sometimes shoots a better round on his favorite course. This has been a good field to us and a good place for us to play. We always play with confidence here.

“That second game isn’t easy by any means. That’s the hardest game to play. You’re coming off a loss and the team you’re playing is coming off a win and they’re well-rested. I asked them before that second game to show me some toughness, not roll over and compete as hard as they could — and that’s exactly what they did.”

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