The West Virginia University (33-21, 12-11) baseball team played its final three games of the regular season the past three days in Lubbock, Tx against No. 5 Texas Tech (40-14, 19-5).
After losing back-to-back close games to begin the series on Thursday and Friday, each of which the Red Raiders made their comeback in the seventh inning, WVU was determined to win at least one game in the set.
The Mountaineers accomplished that feat by upsetting the fifth-ranked team in the country in a high-scoring affair Saturday afternoon behind a big day at the plate by Kyle Gray, winning by a final score of 8-7.
Texas Tech got the scoring started early by plating a single run in the second inning off of WVU starter Conner Dotson.
WVU’s bats combined for a big inning in the fourth, scoring five runs on three hits to take a 5-1 lead.
Each of the first three Mountaineer hitters reached base to start the inning, and then Gray doubled to right field allowing two runs to score and knocking the TTU starter out of the game.
Another run came around to score on a groundout by Kyle Davis, which gave the Mountaineers a two-run advantage for the time being. After Darius Hill walked to put runners on the corners, Ivan Vera tripled to center field – past the dive of center fielder Tanner Gardner – allowing two more runs to score.
The five-run top of the fourth didn’t appear to faze the Texas Tech hitters, who responded with four runs of their own to tie the game in the bottom of the frame.
Rec Gutierrez led off with a home run. After another run crossed home on a balk, Orlando Garcia hit a long ball of his own; a two-run shot that tied the game up a five runs apiece.
Texas Tech didn’t quit there, though, as four more hitters reached base safely in the inning, knocking Dotson out of the game. Dotson lasted just 3.2 innings on the mound, giving up five runs on nine hits.
Jackson Sigman entered in relief and induced a groundout to end the inning, stranding a pair of runners on base with the game still tied 5-5.
Gray regained the lead for the Mountaineers in the next inning, driving in Cole Austin on a single to right field.
West Virginia’s lead was once again short lived, though, as Texas Tech once again put runs on the board in the sixth.
Two runs scored on Red Raider third baseman Hunter Hargrove’s two out, two-RBI double to right, which put TTU out in front 7-6.
Trying to not let the fifth-ranked team in the country get too comfortable at home, WVU tied the game in the seventh on a passed ball with one out, after each of the first two hitters reached base to start the inning.
Both teams went quietly in the eighth, sending the game into the ninth inning tied 7-7.
Each of West Virginia’s first three hitters reached base, the third being KC Huth, who reached on a fielder’s choice that resulted in an out at third base. That set up Gray with two on and one out.
Gray, as he had practically all game, came through in the RBI situation, singling to right field allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Gray led Mountaineer hitters going 3-for-5 at the plate with four RBI, and also scoring a run. Austin, Davis and Ray Guerrini also had multi-hit performances Saturday.
Blake Smith was credited with the win. He entered the game in the seventh inning and threw three innings of one-hit ball.
With the win Saturday, WVU clinched the No. 4 seed in the Big 12 Baseball Championship tournament, which begins Wednesday in Oklahoma City. The Mountaineers begin tournament play at 9 a.m. Wednesday against the Oklahoma Sooners.
Fans can listen to live coverage of all of WVU’s tournament games on 91.7 FM, or online at http://u92.wvu.edu/.