By Ryan Decker
OKLAHOMA CITY – Fresh off a mercy-rule victory Wednesday, the fourth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers (33-22) are set to do battle with the No. 8 seed Oklahoma State Cowboys (27-25) Thursday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Both West Virginia and OK State won their opening-round matchups, meaning both will survive until at least Friday.
Even though they’re the lowest seeded team in the tournament, the Cowboys feel good about where they’re at.
“As the eight seed we know our space, we know our place and off we go,” Oklahoma State head coach Josh Holliday said after Wednesday’s victory. “I think there’s a good carry over for our team right now.”
The Cowboys enter play Thursday playing good baseball at the right time.
Less than a week ago Holliday’s team wasn’t in line to qualify for the Big 12 Championship tournament. However, sweeping a double header last Saturday against Oklahoma inside Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark earned them the right to compete this week.
Being familiar with the ballpark, and having recent success, is possibly the source of the team’s confidence.
“I think the fact that it was this setting a week ago that we spent so much time in waiting for it to stop raining, getting comfortable and playing here, and having some success here,” Holliday said. “A lot of those things create a good memory in your brain, and imagery of what you’re doing here is important.”
West Virginia may not be as familiar as the Cowboys with the field, but the Mountaineers also have successful memories to recall on.
First pitch Thursday will be just over 24 hours after earning an 11-1 victory over Baylor. Today’s contest will also come against a team that WVU took two games out of three against during the regular season, despite losing starting pitcher Conner Dotson in the middle of the series.
And this time last year, West Virginia was also playing the 4 o’clock game after winning its first-round matchup the day before.
The Mountaineers hope to keep their bats hot between games.
Led by Jimmy Galusky and Kyle Gray, a total of five WVU hitters had multi-hit performances, and four had multi-RBI games, against the Bears. Galusky led the charge with three hits, while Gray earned all three of his runs driven in on a base-clearing triple in the first inning.
“I think not only for the rest of the game, I think for the rest of the tournament; kind of start off on the right foot. Gives us some confidence going into (Thursday).” — Jimmy Galusky about WVU’s outbreak in the first.
Kyle Davis and Ivan Gonzalez, the Mountaineers’ two leading hitters, each collected two hits Wednesday to continue their hot streaks at the plate.
Oklahoma State played a much tighter contest Wednesday, earning a 3-0 victory over top-seeded Texas Tech, despite not getting overly productive days at the plate from its top three hitters. Catcher Colin Simpson and Cameron Dobbs led the way with two hits each.
Garrett McCain and Garrett Benge lead the hitting attack for the Cowboys. McCain was the regular season hitting champ in the Big 12, getting a base knock at a .395 clip.
BJ Myers (4-3, 4.03 ERA) gets the start on the mound for West Virginia. Tyler Buffett (5-5, 4.71) is the projected starter for OSU.
Buffett had better success in the first half of the season than he did in the second. In three of his last seven starts, he was touched up for double-digit hits. Buffet also lost three of his final four decisions.
First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. Central). Fans can listen to the action live on 91.7 FM or on u92.wvu.edu.