WVU rallies past OSU, but titles hopes dashed
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- West Virginia's improbable baseball season continued Saturday night, but only for a few hours.
The Mountaineers rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat Oklahoma State, 6-5 in 10 innings, Saturday on the final day of pool play in the Big 12 tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Leftfielder Jacob Rice's single in the 10th scored Bobby Boyd with the walk-off winning run.
But as it turned out, that wasn't enough to get the third-seeded Mountaineers (33-26) into today's 2 p.m. tournament title game against fourth-seeded Oklahoma. A few hours after WVU finished off Oklahoma State, Kansas blanked TCU, 4-0, to win the pool and advance to the title game.
Sixth-seeded Kansas won the pool with a 3-0 mark, including WVU's only loss in the event, 7-2 on Thursday night. West Virginia's only chance to advance was if No. 7 seed TCU won to make WVU, KU and TCU all 2-1. In that event the third-seeded Mountaineers would have won the trip to the title game because it was the highest seed among the three.
Still, what the Mountaineers accomplished in their first trip through the Big 12 and its tournament was fairly remarkable, finishing as the No. 3 seed after being unanimously picked to finish last in the preseason. And Saturday's win over Oklahoma State fit right into that storyline.
The game ended after WVU wasted a leadoff double by first baseman Ryan McBroom in the ninth, tied at 5-5. But West Virginia took advantage of Boyd's leadoff single in the 10th. After Billy Fleming bunted Boyd into scoring position, Rice singled to right and Boyd just beat the tag to score the winning run.
That West Virginia was even in position to win the game was rather remarkable. The Mountaineers needed a five-run sixth inning to wipe out a 5-0 deficit and needed three double plays to avoid falling behind by more.
Trailing 5-0 after bumbling through five errors in the first 51/2 innings, West Virginia had managed only two base runners against Mark Robinette, who had retired 13 straight going into the sixth. When he walked the No. 9 hitter, shortstop Michael Constantini, it didn't seem of much concern because he immediately got Boyd and Fleming.
But then it happened. Rice got WVU's first hit since the first inning on a bunt, then a wild pitch advanced both Constantini and Rice. Ryan Tuntland followed with a single to score both runners, then McBroom blasted his Big 12-leading 12th home run of the season to leftfield to make it 4-0. After falling behind 0-2, Brady Wilson then followed with a solo home run to left to tie the score and mark the first back-to-back home runs in Big 12 tournament play since 1997.
"What they have done this year, just the grit and grind-it-out mentality, they are relentless and they never give up,'' West Virginia coach Randy Mazey said. "That's a perfect example. Down 5-0, we had made five errors and a chance to catch TCU's record [of nine, set a night earlier against WVU] in the middle of the game, but what a turnaround.''
Until West Virginia's sixth-inning rally the Mountaineers seemed intent upon handing the game to second-seeded Oklahoma State (39-17). For instance, when it looked like starter John Means was going to get off to a great start after retiring the first two batters of the game, a throwing error put a man on and then cleanup hitter Randy McCurry sent an 0-2 pitch out of the park for a 2-0 OSU lead.
The Cowboys added another run in the fourth on two-out throwing errors that would have ended the inning, then got two more to make it 5-0 as WVU made two more errors in the sixth.
That would be it for Means, who left after six full innings having given up six hits and five unearned runs, walking two and striking out two.
By the time Corey Walter relieved to start the seventh, though, it was a new game after WVU's five-run explosion tied the score. Walter immediately got into trouble when he gave up a single and hit a batter, but retired the side without giving up a run.
He escaped an even worse jam in the eighth. Two singles wrapped around a walk and a sacrifice bunt loaded the bases with one out for Oklahoma State, but Walter induced second baseman Donnie Walton to hit into an inning-ending double play and the score remained tied.
Walter finally retired the side in order in the ninth and gave up just a single in the 10th. In all, Walter (5-5) got the win with four innings of scoreless, four-hit relief.