West Virginia has lived and died with its pitching staff this season, clearly exhibiting head coach Randy Mazey's belief that a pitcher can dominate like no other single player in a team sport. Most of WVU's victories this year have been set up by effective pitching, especially from the starters, while losses have been marked by substandard outings. That was again the case on Sunday in Waco, Tex., as the Mountaineers gave up 11 runs and 15 hits in a run rule-shortened 11-1 loss to Baylor.
West Virginia starter John Means wasn't able to get out of the second inning, yielding seven hits and four walks before being pulled. He faced 13 batters and retired just four, and by the time the book was closed he had seen his ERA baloon from 1.86 to 3.15. Reliever Josh Harlow suffered much the same fate, giving up five hits two walks and three earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Things fell apart for WVU (17-15, 4-5) early. Means allowed a leadoff second-inning home run to Baylor's Mitch Price, and the blast opened the floodgates for the Bears. Eight consecutive batters reached base via hit or walk, and by the time the carnage had ended, Baylor (16-16, 5-3) had put across nine runs to take command of the game.
In contrast, Baylor again, for the second straight game, dominated the pitching matchup. Starter Austin Stone stifled WVU for six innings, yielding just a solo home run to West Virginia first baseman Ryan McBroom in the fourth inning. Ryan Smith pitched a single inning of relief before the Bears scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.
While pitching let WVU down on Saturday and Sunday, the performance of the hitters wasn't far behind. The Mountaineers swung early and often on Sunday, letting Stone get through six innings of work on just 72 pitches. West Virginia scored just one run and managed only ten hits in the final two games of the series. McBroom had two of West Virginia's five hits on Sunday.
West Virginia breaks from conference play for the next two weeks, it plays a single game at Ohio State, travels to Liberty for a three-game set, then hosts Morehead State in Charleston before getting back into conference play with a road trip to Texas.