By Ryan Decker
Freshman Alek Manoah got the start on the mound, pitching into the fifth inning before giving way to the WVU bullpen, which has had an up and down season.
Sunday, the pen was up for the challenge. A trio of Mountaineer relievers didn’t allow the potent Red Raider offense to score, allowing the WVU offense to take the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth inning en route to a 3-2 victory.
“This team’s growing up,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “They’re growing up and playing with the best teams in the country. That might be the best team in the United States right there that we came in and played three one-run games with.”
Texas Tech struck first, as Grant Little scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Long. Little got into scoring position with a leadoff triple.
West Virginia, which had struggled all series long to string together hits, finally did so in the fourth inning.
Darius Hill doubled to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Kevin Brophy, getting the start at third base, singled to right, driving Hill home to tie the game 1-1.
Cole Austin, who started at shortstop, singled to put two runners on with no one out.
However, Texas Tech starter Steven Gingery settled down, retiring each of the next three Mountaineer hitters to keep WVU from taking the lead.
Brophy finished the day 2-for-2 at the plate, reaching base in all four plate appearances.
“There’s no doubt he’s the player of the game. That guy’s sat and watched a lot of baseball this year, and hasn’t had much of an opportunity. And, oh, here by the way, I’ll put you in against the best pitcher in the Big 12 and see how you do in your first start in a long time. The guy’s a gamer. He’s the future of this program.” — Randy Mazey on Kevin Brophy
The Red Raiders wouldn’t allow the score to stay tied for long, regaining the lead in the following at bat on a fielder’s choice and a throwing error by the Mountaineer defense.
Throwing errors not only allowed TTU to regain the lead, but they are what forced the lead to disappear for the Red Raiders.
Gingery failed to field a comebacker to the mound off the bat of Braden Zarbnisky cleanly, and then threw the ball away down the right field line, allowing Zarb to advance to second. Later in the inning, the WVU utility man wandered too far off second base, getting the attention of the Texas Tech pitcher.
Zarbnisky finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate, getting one more hit at the plate than he surrendered during his three innings on the mound.
For the second time in the inning, though, Gingery delivered an errant throw, this time allowing Zarbnisky to score to tie the game at 2-2.
“(Zarbnisky) gave us absolutely everything he had today, offensively and pitching wise” Mazey said.
Texas Tech came into the series as the second-best team in the Big 12 in terms of fielding percentage, but the Red Raiders committed three errors Sunday, tying a season high.
The defensive miscues that prolonged the inning allowed WVU to take the lead on a two-out single by Austin, who was thrown out at second trying to gain an extra base.
West Virginia threatened to pad its lead by getting a pair of runners on with one out, and then loading the bases on a walk issued to Brophy. However, Texas Tech reliever John McMillon got Austin to fly out to end the inning.
Jackson Sigman earns the win out of the bullpen for WVU. Redshirt-freshman Cody Wood collects his first career save.
Life in the Big 12
After winnings its first four Big 12 series of the year, West Virginia has dropped each of its next three conference weekend series, including this weekend.
Pitching ain’t easy … or is it?
Texas Tech starting pitcher Steven Gingery was handed his first loss of the year, ending his quest for an undefeated regular season on the mound. Gingery’s pitching record is now 8-1.
For West Virginia, despite dropping two out of three games in the series, feels good after holding the most potent offense in the Big 12 to just seven runs total.
“That”s as good a weekend as we can have under the circumstances with the rain, and the injuries, and the freshmen that went out there and pitched,” Mazey said. “We went into this game with four or five pitchers available to pitch, and we pitched almost all of them and they all did great.”
Sunday’s game was the Mountaineers’ 15th game against a ranked team this season. WVU has a 9-6 record against nationally ranked competition.
As of now, West Virginia won’t face another ranked team until the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City at the end of the month.
West Virginia has five game scheduled for next week. The Mountaineers will play two games against Penn State – one Tuesday at home and then Wednesday at PNC Park. After that, WVU will play a three-game weekend series against Gardner-Webb at Monongalia County Ballpark.