WVU closes in on Big 12 title with 5-3 win over Texas Tech

GRANVILLE, W.Va. — West Virginia’s bullpen collected 27 outs and a pair of home runs powered the Mountaineers to a series victory over Texas Tech. WVU (39-13/15-6 Big 12) defeated the Red Raiders 5-3 on Senior Day at Monongalia County Ballpark.

With three games remaining in the regular season, the Mountaineers need just one victory to secure at least a share of their first Big 12 Conference championship.

“They are so impressive the way they bounce back from stuff. The way we pitch, the way we hit, the way we run the bases and play defense we are checking just about every box you have to check to be a great team right now,” said WVU head coach Randy Mazey.

“Nothing is over. You can’t feel too good about it and stop playing. Thursday’s game just became the most important game of the year.”

A crowd of 3,312 filed in to watch West Virginia’s regular season home finale. The Mountaineers have posted an 18-6 record at home and a new program-record for season attendance was established with 59,894 fans.

“This crowd was into the game more than any other. They were into the game in the first inning.”

Trailing 3-2 in the fifth inning, JJ Wetherholt brought the Mountaineers even with an opposite-field solo home run into the Texas Tech bullpen. It was Wetherholt’s 15th home run of the season.

“Whenever I catch a ball like that to left field, I am usually pretty sure when I hit it. That one was definitely one I thought had a great chance to go,” Wetherholt said.

In the sixth, Caleb McNeely gave West Virginia their first lead of the game with a two-run home run, his 12th of the season.

“I guess I have been robbed about four or five times the past two weekends. I was just running,” McNeely said.

“It is not easy to hit a ball that far,” Mazey said. “You’ve got to be strong and on time and do a lot of things right. He is hitting seventh in the lineup. That tells you what our lineup is like when our guys that far down are hitting balls that far.”

WVU starting pitcher Robby Porco was pulled after facing just two batters, allowing a walk and a double. Hurricane High School graduate Noah Short induced a groundout and an inning-ending double play to limit the damage to just one run against. Maxx Yell, David Hagaman and Carlson Reed combined to allow just two runs over the final eight innings.

“We had a fresh bullpen and we wanted to use them,” Mazey said. “Noah did an unbelievable job getting out of that first inning. Maxx did a really good job of getting out of trouble when he got in trouble. Hagaman and Reed, that’s what they have been doing all season.”

Reed collected his seventh save of the season by pitching two scoreless frames. He worked out of a jam in the eighth by collecting one of his four strikeouts with the bases loaded.

“Because it was against the middle off the lineup, he got better against their better hitters. He was really good. That’s what makes him one of the best relievers in the country.”

With Oklahoma State’s 12-2 win over Kansas State on Sunday, WVU leads the Cowboys by two games entering the final weekend of the season. West Virginia visits Texas (35-18/12-9 Big 12) in a three-game series that starts on Thursday. WVU needs just one win to secure at least a piece of the Big 12 title. Two victories would clinch the outright championship and No. 1 seed for the league tournament.

“It would mean a lot to me. I have been here through literally everything. I have seen this team grow and become more of a team together. Honestly, it is a great thing to see,” Reed said.

“Texas is Texas,” Mazey said. “That’s one of the greatest traditions in the history of college baseball. You can’t go down there and get caught up in the atmosphere.”

With a 3-1 week, the Mountaineers strengthened their resume to possibly host NCAA Tournament games in early-June. The top 16 teams host regional games, as the Mountaineers did in 2019.

“Never leave it in the hands of the judges is my rule,” Mazey said. “We’re not going to worry about that. We have spent the whole second half of the season trying to keep from thinking about that. Now is no time to start.”

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