This weekend the University of Texas baseball team (21-27) officially became the last team in the Big 12 to visit Monongalia County Ballpark.
The Longhorns also became the first Big 12 team to be swept in the second year home of the Mountaineers.
West Virginia (27-19) completed its three-game sweep of the Longhorns with a 9-5 victory Sunday afternoon in front of 1,482 spectators on Mother’s Day.
It was the same recipe for success for the Mountaineers in all three games of the series: lots of offense, good pitching, and good defense.
Offensively, West Virginia, a team that came into the series having scored five or more runs in nine of its last ten games, continued to be a tough team to get out.
WVU scored 11 runs on 15 hits in the series opener Friday, put 14 runs on the board Saturday, and finished off the Longhorns with nine runs Sunday. In each of the three games, the Mountaineer hitters combined efforts for double-digit hits, including a series-high 15 hits Friday.
Friday night in the series opener all nine of the WVU starters, and pinch hitter Shaun Wood, registered a hit, and five of the 10 hitters had multi-hit performances. Leadoff hitter Braden Zarbnisky went 2-for-3, and Ivan Vera and Jackson Cramer went 2-for-4, with all three knocking in a pair of RBI.
Cramer tripled home two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, effectively putting the game out of reach for Texas.
Behind a very balanced offensive attack, and another impressive outing on the mound by Chad Donato, WVU easily took Game 1 of the series by a score of 11-2.
The offense kept pouring on the runs Saturday, as the Mountaineers scored in eight out of the nine innings, and putting four runs up on the board in both the second and sixth innings.
Kyle Davis and Kyle Gray each registered three hits, Darius Hill and Vera added two apiece, three West Virginia hitters drew multiple walks, including Jimmy Galusky who was issued three free passes at the bottom of the order.
Texas showed much more fight Saturday than it had the night before. Facing a 5-0 deficit after the second inning, Texas scored a pair of runs in the third and fourth innings, and then tied the game 6-6 with two more runs in the fifth.
West Virginia responded, though, by pushing two runs of its own across to score in the bottom half of the inning, and then went ahead for good with a four-run sixth inning.
Thirteen hits, including a three-run home run by Marques Inman, and 11 drawn walks lifted the Mountaineers past the Texas comeback effort, winning 14-7.
In the series finale on Sunday, it was the middle of the order that did a lot of the damage for West Virginia.
Hill, Vera and Cramer combined for seven of the team’s 10 hits, scored four of the nine runs, and accounted for six of the eight RBI.
West Virginia once again got off to a hot start, jumping out to a 7-1 lead after the second inning.
A base-clearing home run in the third by Texas’ Zane Gurwitz – his second of the series – trimmed the Mountaineer lead to 7-4. But the Longhorn offense failed to score in the last five innings of the game, falling 9-5.
Good defense was on display throughout the series by the Mountaineers, but it was Vera who stole the show, with a pair of fine defensive plays at third base.
Pitching, especially out of the bullpen, was good most of the weekend for Randy Mazey.
Donato threw seven strong innings Friday, allowing just two runs on five hits while striking out six. He picked up his third win on the year with the victory, and could have gone farther in the game had his pitch count not been well-over 100 when he pitched out of a jam in the seventh.
Jackson Sigman came in for the last two innings, striking out three of the six batters he faced.
Sigman threw in each of the three games, totaling six innings in relief. Longhorn hitters failed to score off the junior right-hander, in fact they only managed to get one runner on against him.
Ross Vance got the start Saturday, however he did not go as far he would’ve liked, lasting just 4.2 innings, giving up six runs on six hits and four walks. Zarbnisky was first out of the pen in relief, coming in with two on in the fifth.
“Zarb” got out of the jam with a fly ball, and lasted through the eighth, throwing 3.1 important innings on the mound.
On Sunday, Conner Dotson got his second career start against the Longhorns, this time going up against Texas’ Kyle Johnston, who Mazey said he believed was the Longhorns best starting pitcher.
Dotson threw six innings, and though he did allow four earned runs, he looked in control for most of his time on the mound, striking out nine would-be hitters.
Three relief pitchers combined for three innings of relief and allowed just two hits for West Virginia, pitching to just one hitter over the minimum as Blake Smith finished on the mound by inducing a game ending 6-4-3 double play.
None of the three Longhorn starters threw a single pitch in the sixth inning, as Longhorn ace Ty Culbreth was knocked out of Saturday’s game in the fifth, and Johnston’s outing was cut short in the second.
With the series sweep, the Mountaineers move ahead of Texas in the Big 12 standings, now owning a 1 ½ game lead over the Longhorns for fourth place, and are now just one game back of TCU for third place.
West Virginia has four home games remaining on the schedule. WVU hosts Maryland Tuesday at 6:30 and then plays its last three games of the year inside Mon. County Ballpark against William & Mary.
The Mountaineers end the regular season with four games on the road, including three games in Lubbock against Big 12 leading Texas Tech.