WVU loses a heartbreaker to Oklahoma
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The latest homecoming was going so well for Matt Frazer and Harrison Musgrave. But Oklahoma had other ideas.
Craig Aikin hit into a fielder's choice in the top of the 10th inning, scoring Garrett Carey with the winning run Friday night as the Sooners scrapped their way to a 4-3 victory over West Virginia in the opener of a Big 12 weekend series at Appalachian Power Park.
The paid attendance was announced at 3,279, but unofficial estimates had the total crowd closer to 4,000.
The win kept Oklahoma (34-12, 11-5), ranked No. 10 nationally, atop the Big 12 standings with two more games left at Power Park against the Mountaineers (27-20, 9-7) today and Sunday.
The Sooners got two hits apiece - or half their total for the game - in the eighth and 10th innings, allowing them first to tie the game at 3, then win it in extras. Both runs were unearned.
"All the Big 12 games we've won have been just like that,'' said Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway. "They've been grinders - even the ones we've lost.
"We understood it was going to be tough, but we understood when we got down 2-0, it wouldn't be over. We've got arguably the first [draft] pick in the country on the mound, so we're going to battle for him.''
The game matched each team's ace pitcher - the Sooners' Jonathan Gray (8-1, 1.10 ERA) against WVU left-hander Musgrave (7-1, 2.36).
Musgrave (Bridgeport) and Frazer (Nitro), who had previously played at Power Park in the Class AAA state tournament during their high school careers, teamed up to give the Mountaineers a 3-2 lead after seven innings Friday.
Frazer ripped RBI doubles in each of his first two at-bats and Musgrave worked seven strong innings, striking out 11, walking four and allowing only four hits, all singles. His pitches were still hitting 88 mph on the radar gun in the fifth inning.
However, Oklahoma's hitters were able to work deep into the count against Musgrave several times, elevating his pitch total to a season-high 125 through seven innings, prompting WVU coach Randy Mazey to put out a call to the bullpen.
The Sooners took advantage right away against reliever Corey Walter, tying it at 3 on Hector Lorenzana's single in the top of the eighth.
"I thought the difference was after the fourth inning when it was 2-2,'' Golloway said. "Their guy [Musgrave] was at 72 [pitches] and our guy was at 67 and both were in trouble. Our guys did a great job getting [Musgrave] to 125 pitches in the seventh inning, and our guy got a five-pitch and a six-pitch inning back-to-back, and that's why he was able to stay on the mound a little longer. And we needed it. We couldn't have [closer] Jacob Evans going more than two innings.''
WVU had chances to get the lead back in the bottom of the eighth and to possibly win it in the ninth.
Brady Wilson stroked a leadoff single in the eighth against Gray and took second on a hit-and-run groundout. Wilson, however, ventured too far off second when Ryan Tuntland bounced a ball to shortstop and Wilson was tagged out in a rundown. Ryan McBroom fanned to end the inning.
Billy Fleming singled for the Mountaineers to start the ninth and Mazey pinch-hit for Frazer (2 for 3), whose only out required a superb effort by Sooners second baseman Lorenzana and pitcher Gray on a 4-1 groundout in the sixth.
Justin Fox, a better bunter, was called upon to sacrifice Fleming to second, but didn't get the job done. After fouling off two attempts, he laid down a bunt that was too hard and reliever Evans was able to wheel around and cut down Fleming at second base. Fox later got to second on a groundout, but Bobby Boyd's bouncer to third ended the threat.
"I just told [our players] to think about this game,'' Mazey said. "Spend some time thinking about it, reflecting on it. We had the best team in this league . . . we thought we had them beat. We had a lot of opportunities to do some things. We just couldn't execute when we had to.''
It marked the seventh one-run loss of the season for the Mountaineers and was their sixth straight one-run game. The Sooners are now 9-3 in one-run games.
"If you go back and look,'' Carey said, "we've won a lot of close-inning ballgames, and that's key in this league. Everyone's pretty tough.
"It's huge anytime you can win a Friday game. That just gives you momentum for Saturday. But as far as we're concerned, it's a flush. We're going to come out tomorrow and play pretty hard.''
The teams are set to play at 4 p.m. today and 1 p.m. Sunday at Power Park.
The Mountaineers took a 2-0 lead in the second on Frazer's first RBI double and a run-scoring single by Boyd.
Musgrave allowed a pair of runs in the top of the third despite giving up just one hit on a bunt single. He also permitted two walks (one intentional) and hit two batters in the inning.
With two strikes on him in the fourth, Frazer delivered another RBI double to put Musgrave and WVU back in front. But by night's end, both former all-staters were out of the game and the Sooners put together a rally.
A series win by the Mountaineers, the unanimous pick to finish last in the Big 12 preseason poll, could put them at the top of the league standings.
"I understand very clearly if we lose and if Baylor [25-21, 11-7] or someone else wins, it could flip-flop,'' Golloway said. "We also understand coming in here if we get swept like Kansas did [against WVU] last weekend, it's going to flip-flop between us and them. And that's Big 12 baseball. That's what makes teams coming out of here good.
"That's how we got to Omaha in 2010. We're the league that should get a College World Series team because it's games like this. Just learn how to play in this kind of environment - tough games against this kind of talent. You learn how to get to Omaha if you win.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.