Mountaineers' momentum slowed
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Perhaps it was appropriate that West Virginia University's baseball team broke out the camouflage uniforms on Sunday at Charleston's Appalachian Power Park.
Because it was under attack all day.
Texas Christian roughed up five Mountaineer pitchers for 18 hits en route to a 16-6 victory and took the weekend series on a cool Mother's Day before a crowd of 1,820.
The surprising Mountaineers split a Saturday doubleheader and fell to 30-22 overall and 12-9 in Big 12 play. Still, they are in a tie for second place with one week of action remaining.
"Things didn't go our way," said WVU outfielder Brady Wilson. "We started out strong, but you can't win them all. Our pitching was down this weekend compared to the other weekends. We still swung the bat, though, against probably the best pitching staff we've seen all year."
WVU seemed in command early, touching up Horned Frog starter Andrew Mitchell for four runs in the bottom of the first inning to take a 4-1 lead.
The Mountaineers, however, cooled, while TCU increased its assault. The Horned Frogs scored in every inning but two.
"It goes back to Pitching 101," said WVU coach Randy Mazey. "We threw a lot of balls belt-high. It seemed like every time they swung the bat it was either a double or a homer. That's why you teach pitchers to pitch at the knees. If you pitch at the belt, it's a lot easier to hit ... They abused our pitching pretty good today."
WVU starter John Means surrendered eight hits and six runs in 4 2/3 innings. Four subsequent pitchers gave up 10 more.
"WVU had been playing as good as anyone in the conference," said TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, whose team moved to 25-25 overall and 10-11 in league play. "We felt we'd have a better season. Hopefully, this is a springboard."
TCU received 6 2/3 innings of strong relief work from freshman lefty Alex Young.
"He's a talented freshman," Schlossnagle said. "We've felt he's a starting pitcher in the future, but now he might have to be a starter in the conference tournament."
WVU will take on Marshall on Tuesday in Beckley before finishing with a three-game series at Oklahoma State beginning Thursday.
Kansas State remained in first place at 14-7 in league play after downing Kansas 7-3 on Sunday. Oklahoma moved to 12-9 and into a tie with WVU by defeating OSU 5-4. Baylor and OSU are both 11-9.
So the odds of WVU winning the league title are long, but Mazey continues to push his team.
"I was just telling the team, who would have ever thought, with one weekend left to go, we still have an opportunity to win the Big 12," Mazey said. "When this journey started back in August, the first thing we did after meeting these guys for the first time was go on a 12-mile hike in honor of the Big 12 conference. The reason we did that was we thought that getting in this league was something pretty insurmountable. But from the way we've played the entire season, and how hard they've grounded it out, they've climbed almost to the top of the mountain."
"These next 10 days for Mountaineer baseball is going to be pretty important. I couldn't be prouder."
The question is, after TCU's thrashing of WVU's pitching, are the Mountaineer arms worn down?
"Maybe," Wilson said. "Harrison Musgrave is still going out there every Friday and pitching his butt off. If he can keep up what he's doing, I think the other pitchers can keep on. I don't think we're tired. We've been doing this all year and are in this position."
WVU's Ryan McBroom was the only Mountaineer to have multiple runs batted in Sunday with two. Outfielder Jacob Rice went 3 for 5. TCU designated hitter Kevin Cron had four RBIs and an eighth-inning homer. Second baseman Paul Hendrix had a third-inning homer.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.