Mountaineers falter with runners on base, drop Big 12 Tourney opener to Oklahoma

(Story by Luke Wiggs)

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Mountaineers labored from start to finish in a 6-4 loss to Oklahoma on the first day of the Big 12 Tournament.

West Virginia (33-21) starting pitcher Jacob Watters struggled immediately, pitching out of a first-and-third jam in the first inning.

Watters then allowed a leadoff single in the bottom of the second to Wallace Clark and issued consecutive free passes to Jackson Nicklaus and Kendall Pettis to load the bases with one out.

An RBI single by John Spikerman opened the scoring for the Sooners (34-20). That was directly followed by a Peyton Graham grand slam to dead center to make it 5-0 Oklahoma after two innings. The Sooners sent ten men to the plate in that half inning.

“The grand slam was the biggest play of the game obviously,” said West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey. “But the difference in the game too, we walked eleven they didn’t walk any.”

The Mountaineers threatened for the first time in the top of the third when Grant Hussey led off the inning with a single. Tevin Tucker was hit by a pitch. But Sooner starter Carson Atwood, making his first collegiate start, struck out two and induced a fly out to strand the runners.

After allowing consecutive walks to begin the bottom of the third, Watters was relieved by Carlson Reed. Reed induced a double play and struck out Peyton Graham, stranding both runners.

Oklahoma defeated WVU, 6-4 in the Big 12 Tournament (Photo by Tim Heitman/Big 12 Conference)

Reed performed admirably in relief, striking out 5 hitters in 4.1 innings of work and allowing a single run.

Two runners were again stranded for West Virginia in the top of the fourth with McGwire Holbrook and Dayne Leonard reaching on singles with one out. Oklahoma reliever Carter Campbell rose to the occasion by striking out Kevin Dowdell and he forced Hussey to line out to right.

Oklahoma added to their lead in the bottom of the inning. Blake Robertson was hit by a pitch and later advanced to second on a wild pitch. He scored on a Tanner Tredaway RBI single. It was 6-0 Sooners after four.

WVU again had a runner in scoring position in the 5th, with Austin Davis 90 feet away from home with two outs. Campbell again stranded the runner by inducing a Victor Scott fly out to left.

“It seemed like our offense was dead there for awhile,” said Mazey, “Even though we got guys on we couldn’t get them in.” In the loss, WVU was 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position

The Sooners threatened again in the bottom of the seventh when WVU reliever Zach Ottinger walked the bases loaded with one out. Ottinger then struck out Graham and earned a ground out to keep the Oklahoma lead at 6.

In the top of the eigth, JJ Wetherholt led off with a single. He eventually scored West Virginia’s first run on a wild pitch by Oklahoma’s Chaz Martinez.

West Virginia went down swinging in the ninth inning. Hussey hit his eleventh home run of the season. After an Austin Davis check swing single, Wetherholt followed suit homering to right field, cutting the lead to two runs.

That was all the Mountaineers could muster, falling 6-4 and setting up an elimination game with Kansas State tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. EST. West Virginia swept the Wildcats last weekend in Morgantown.

“Tomorrow has been our thing,” said Mazey, “Our record after losing is 15-5 this year. Our backs have been against the wall before and we came out well so, here we go.”

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