Bearing Down

West Virginia jumped out to a big lead early, saw the game tied, then held off two Baylor rallies to grab a 9-8 Big 12 conference win in the first game of a three-game series in Waco, Tex., on Friday.

In extending its winning streak to eight games, WVU had to battle continuously after taking a 6-0 lead midway through the game. The homestanding Bears showed resilience of their own, scoring once in the bottom of the fifth and adding five two innings later to tie things up at six-all, but West Virginia outscored them 3-2 in the last two frames to get the win.

After four scoreless innings, West Virginia broke out in a big way in the top of the fifth, sending 11 batters to the plate. Ryan Tuntland and Ryan McBroom led off the inning with hits, and Alan Filauro followed one out later with a bunt single to plate Tuntland. Tyler Munden reached on an error to score the second run of the inning, and Bobby Boyd cleared the bases with a triple to drive in two more. Brady Wilson and Matt Frazer then delivered hits to drive in two more runs, and even though McBroom grounded into a double play to end the inning, WVU was clearly in control.

Baylor loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning with one out, but starter Harrison Musgrave, who allowed just four hits in six innings of work, yielded only a sacrifice fly and then got a strikeout to end the threat.

WVU, which had played a relatively clean game to that point, then began inflicting wounds upon itself to let the Bears back in the game. Musgrave wallked leadoff hitter Nate Goodwin, and yielded the mound to Dan Dierdorff, who also shot himself in the foot. A triple and three consecutive walks put two runs across and ended his day, which brought Pascal Paul on to pitch a bit earlier than head coach Randy Mazey might have liked. Paul gave up a hit to allow another run, and then the defense had a miscue, as an error let in two more runs to tie the game. Paul settled down and got two strikeouts to end the inning, but with the score tied at six it was a two-inning showdown for the win.

WVU struck first in the top of the eighth, and this time it was Baylor that helped with sloppy play. Two errors by the Bears, combined with two WVU steals, put the Mountaineers back on top at 8-6.

Back came the Bears in the bottom of the frame, as a double and a single cut the West Virginia lead to one entering the ninth, but the visiting Mountaineers responded with a McBroom sacrifice fly to push the lead back to two.

As it turned out, WVU needed that run, as Baylor again put all the pressure it could muster on Paul. The West Virginia reliever struck out leadoff hitter Duncan Wendel, but a passed ball on the third strike allowed him to get aboard. A hit put two on with no outs, but Paul pounced on the ensuing sacrifice bunt attempt and gunned pinch runner West Tunnell down at third for the first out. Another single and a sacrifice fly brought in a run and put the tying run on third, but Paul induced a ground ball to shortstop for the final out of the game.

With the win, West Virginia (17-13, 4-3) moved into a tie for second place in the crowded pack of the Big 12 standings. Oklahoma has opened up a two game lead with an 8-1 league record, but WVU sits knotted with Kansas and Kansas State, and one-half game ahead of Oklahoma State and Baylor (3-3).

The Mountaineers got production up and down the lineup. Tuntland was 3-4 with two runs scored, while McBroom was 2-4 with two RBI and a pair of scores. Alan Filauro continued to rip the ball, contributing two hits and an RBI, while Bobby Boyd also had a two-hit, two-RBI night. Filauro is now 13-22 in his last six games.

Musgrave yielded two earned runs in his six-plus innings, but also gave up four walks. Dierdorff's rough outing accounted for just 1/3 of an inning and three earned runs in five batters faced, but Paul pitched just well enough to secure the win. He threw the final 2 2/3 innings, but had to face 16 hitters to get the last eight outs of the game.

WVU will try to hold on to its spot in the standings in game two of the series, which is set for Saturday at 4:05 p.m. Eastern. Righty Corey Walter is set to start for the Mountaineers against Max Garner. Walter is coming off a masterful complete game win last weekend, in which he struck out eight and allowed just one run in a win over New Orleans.

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