By Ryan Decker
A three-run lead evaporated for West Virginia (10-7, 2-0) after starting pitcher Michael Grove was forced to exit the game early.
No. 10 Baylor (15-3, 0-2) took advantage of a couple WVU fielding mistakes to tie the game, but it would be a mistake by the Bears that gave West Virginia the win.
Deciding to pitch to the red-hot Cole Austin backfired on the nationally ranked Bears, as Austin delivered single in the ninth to drive in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. Braden Zarbnisky held onto the lead in the bottom of the frame to secure the 6-5 win for the Mountaineers.
Pinch-hitter Alek Manoah walked to lead off the top of the ninth, and was advanced to second on a groundout.
Instead of pitching to Jackson Cramer with two outs, Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez decided to walk Cramer and pitch to Austin, which backfired. Austin singled to center, driving in TJ Lake, running for Manoah, from second to give WVU a 6-5 lead.
Baylor threatened to tie or win the game in the bottom of the frame, but catcher Chase Illig picked off the lead runner at second base and Zarbnisky struck out the final batter looking to end the game.
West Virginia had a pair of runners reach in the first inning but was unable to push either across. The Mountaineers didn’t miss their chance in the second, though.
Darius Hill singled to lead off the inning and was then driven in to score on a hard single by Illig.
A few hitters later, Kyle Gray sent a pitch over the head of the right fielder that bounced off the wall. Gray legged out a triple as two runners scored on the two-out three-bagger that gave West Virginia an early 3-0 lead.
West Virginia roughed up Baylor starting pitcher, Montana Parsons, who gave up five runs on ten hits and also issued a pair of walks through six innings of work.
Baylor scored a pair of unearned runs in the fourth following an error by Gray at second base. Good defense by the Mountaineers kept the Bears from scoring any further runs in the frame.
Those were the only two runs that Grove would surrender in his five-plus innings on the mound.
Grove gave up just three hits and struck out five before being pulled in the sixth inning after being examined by head coach Randy Mazey and the Mountaineer trainer.
The Wheeling, WV-native has already dealt with one minor injury this year, and was coming off an outstanding performance a week ago when he struck out 11 hitters against Old Dominion.
Grove left the game with a 5-2 lead, but would be no decisioned.
Kameron Esthay hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull the Bears back to within one run, and Baylor tied the game in the seventh.
Baylor could’ve done more damage, as the Bears loaded the bases with just one out, knocking Isaiah Kearns out of the game. Jackson Sigman appeared to induce the inning-ending double play, but a throwing miscue by Gray kept the inning alive and allowed the tying run to score.
Sigman got out of the jam with a flyout.
West Virginia committed three errors in the game.
Austin, who went 4 for 5 at the plate Saturday, has earned at least three hits in each of the first two games of the series.
Three other Mountaineers registered multi-hit games.
As a team, West Virginia scored five of its six runs with two outs, and was 6 of 13 with two outs on the scoreboard.
Matt Menard led the Bears at the dish, hitting 2 for 3, scoring twice and also drawing a walk. Josh Bissonette was the only other Baylor hitter with two hits.
With the win, the Mountaineers improve to 4-0 against ranked teams this year.
West Virginia will go for the series sweep tomorrow at 12 p.m. EST.