The hottest team in the tournament keeps getting hotter.
Saturday morning, West Virginia (36-21) continued its tear through the Big 12 Baseball Championship tournament by once again combining an impressive outing on the mound with a big day at the plate by Kyle Davis.
Davis drove in four runs, which was more than enough for WVU starter Conner Dotson on the mound, who nearly went the distance in the Mountaineers 11-1 mercy-rule shortened victory over Oklahoma, advancing West Virginia to the championship game.
“To get a performance like that late in a tournament is really, really hard to do,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “Oklahoma is swinging the bats as well as anybody I’ve ever seen the last two days, scoring 30 runs in two games. For him to go out and do what he did against that lineup – just a special, special day for Conner.”
Pitching-wise, the story of the tournament thus far for the Mountaineers had been a short outing by its starter followed by big-time relief appearances out of the bullpen.
On Saturday, however, Mazey wouldn’t be forced to make an early change.
With his fastball working, Dotson threw 6 1/3 innings of four-hit ball, allowing just one un-earned run while striking out nine.
“(Dotson) silenced our club that was really swinging the bats very well,” Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes said. “Give him a lot of credit.”
It did take part of the first inning for Dotson to settle in as he gave up a pair of singles, the second to Steele Walker driving in the opening run of the game.
Dotson managed to get out of the inning without any further damage, and from then on it was all WVU.
The Mountaineers scored three runs in the second, three more in the fourth, one in the fifth and tacked on four runs in the seventh and final inning.
In the second, hitting with already two runs home, Davis ripped a ball down the third base line and past the outstretched glove of Sooner third baseman Cade Harris. Davis pulled into second with an RBI-double that gave West Virginia a 3-1 lead.
Two innings later, Davis swung at the 1-2 pitch, driving it over the left field fence for a two-run home run, his second multi-run home run of the tournament.
“I just feel really good up there,” Davis said. “It also helps with the stellar pitching we’ve gotten.”
In each of WVU’s three-run innings, the Mountaineers used three hits and some help from the Sooner defense to bring the runners home to score.
West Virginia added a run in the fifth on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Gray with runners on the corners, putting his team out in front 7-1.
Gray’s bunt was the second time in the three games the Mountaineers have played in OKC, where the bottom of the order has driven in a run playing small ball.
On the mound, Dotson stayed in control after the first inning. He registered at least one strikeout in every inning but one, and K’d a pair of batters in the first and third.
And following the second inning, Dotson faced no more than four batters in an inning.
“I was definitely having a lot of confidence with my fastball. I was able to locate it where I want it,” Dotson said. “The third through the fifth inning I kind of found my curveball and that kept them off my fastball. Those two pitches really helped me out today.”
If the game wasn’t already out of reach entering the late innings, the Mountaineers surely put it out of reach in what became the final frame.
West Virginia sent 10 hitters to the plate in the seventh, using five runs, two walks and a sacrifice fly to bring home the five runs.
Each of the first two hitters reached on singles to start the inning. KC Huth followed suit with a single of his own, driving how a run.
Following a sacrifice fly by Gray, Davis once again drove a pitch to left, this one touching down shallow in the outfield. Huth scored on the single, and then due to an arrant throw by left fielder Cody Thomas, Jimmy Galusky was able to scamper home and Davis was able to advance to second base.
Davis went 3-for-5 at the plate, driving in the four runs and scoring once himself.
Jackson Sigman came in to record the final two outs of the game. Dotson left to a standing ovation.
Galusky and Ray Guerrini also had multi-hit games, each finishing 2-for-4 and scoring a pair of runs.
With his four runs batted in, Davis now sits one RBI away from tying, and two away from breaking, the Big 12 Championship tournament record for most runs batted in in a single tournament.
He will get that opportunity Sunday against the winner of the TCU/Texas semi-final matchup.
Sunday’s game is set for 1 p.m. CT, 2 p.m. eastern. Fans can listen on 91.7 FM or online at http://u92.wvu.edu.