Landmark win for Mountaineers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Less than 24 hours after letting one get away at Power Park, West Virginia wasn't about to have it happen again. So the Mountaineers lowered the boom on Oklahoma.
Ryan Tuntland launched a tie-breaking two-run home run into a stiff wind in the sixth inning and Ryan McBroom highlighted a five-run eighth with another two-run shot and WVU picked up a landmark victory Saturday afternoon with a 9-3 Big 12 win over the nationally ranked Sooners in front of a paid crowd of 2,250.
The win, coming a day after squandering an eighth-inning lead to Oklahoma and suffering a 4-3 loss in 10 innings, sticks the Mountaineers (28-20, 10-7) into a tie for second place with Kansas State (33-15, 10-7) in the conference standings, one game behind the No. 10 Sooners (34-13, 11-6).
"We showed a lot of character,'' said first-year WVU coach Randy Mazey. "We had a meeting before the game and I told them every time I've challenged them to do something, they've responded.
"With this win - and I hope I've done my math correctly - we set out this season to make the conference tournament. It was a goal of ours, and I think today mathematically punches our ticket to Oklahoma City and the conference tournament. So now we can readjust our goals and try to win this durn thing. Our guys have nothing to lose because we already accomplished the goal we set out on. We've still got 10, 12 games left, so we'll play some no-fear baseball the rest of the way.''
Only the top eight teams in the nine-member Big 12 qualify for the league's postseason tournament, and the fact the Mountaineers - a unanimous pick to finish last - won't be on the outside looking in is big news. Also, WVU's media guide makes no mention of the last time the Mountaineers beat a top-10 team in baseball, but there's a good chance it's never been done before Saturday.
"It's a confidence-booster,'' said McBroom, who socked his team-leading ninth homer of the season. "This team we've got this year is pretty special what we're doing right now. I think we have talent because Oklahoma's a great team. But I really do honestly believe if we keep working hard, we could end up doing pretty well.''
Unlike Friday night, when WVU was up 3-2 after seven innings in battle of pitching aces but faltered (with three late-inning errors leading to a pair of unearned runs), the Mountaineers closed the door.
Pascal Paul fired 21/3 innings of hitless relief in support of starter Dan Dierdorff (4-5), allowing only two hit batsman to reach. Dierdorff went 62/3 innings, giving up seven hits and three runs, two of them earned. He struck out a season-high of eight.
West Virginia also played a much cleaner game on defense, committing just one error after posting three in Friday's loss. But the biggest difference was keeping the offense flowing after being held scoreless over the final six innings on Friday.
Jacob Rice hit into a run-scoring fielder's choice in the bottom of the sixth Saturday to tie the game at 3, then Tuntland followed with a surprising two-run blast over the left-field wall on a day when winds blowing straight in had knocked down virtually every other fly ball.
"It hung up there and I put a great swing on it,'' Tuntland said.
WVU collected 12 hits (six coming in the eighth inning) on Saturday after ripping 10 on Friday - nine of those against Sooners ace Jonathan Gray, a potential All-America who opposed Harrison Musgrave, the Mountaineers' top pitcher.
"We've been working in practice,'' Tuntland said. "Have no fear stepping into the box, stay aggressive and stay with the plan that we've had all year. And it's been successful so far.''
To that point, the contest had been sort of station-to-station, with both teams working the bunt game to advance runners in the breezy conditions.
Tuntland's RBI groundout in the first stuck WVU into a 1-0 lead and the Sooners tied it in the fourth on Anthony Hermelyn's run-scoring single.
Oklahoma went ahead in the fourth. With runners at first and second and one out, Max White dropped down a bunt toward third that resulted in a wild throw from Tuntland, allowing Garrett Carey to score for a 2-1 Sooners edge.
That set the stage for the Mountaineers' rally in the home half of the sixth that made it 4-2. After Oklahoma got one back in the seventh, WVU piled on five insurance runs in the eighth as six straight batters reached against beleaguered reliever Ralph Garza Jr. The Sooners' closer, Jacob Evans, had worked two innings on Friday.
After McBroom's homer, Matt Frazer socked an RBI double to make it 7-3 - his third run-scoring double of the series. Bobby Boyd, the No. 9 hitter, followed with a two-run single.
"It was a tough day to hit home runs,'' Mazey said. "We matched up with their big guy [Gray] yesterday and played very aggressive - a lot of hit-and-run and moving runners. We didn't do that today because there was a different pitcher on the mound.
"They thought we were going to play that way again and they pitched out a lot, but we didn't [do it]. We relied on home runs from guys in the middle of the lineup, and it worked out pretty well for us.''
The teams complete their three-game series today at Power Park. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.