Getting Froggy

TCU exploded for six runs off Mountaineer starter Dan Dierdorff in the top of the first inning and fought off every WVU attempt to rally in a 7-4 victory in front of 2,527 at Appalachian Power Park on Saturday.

The tone for the game was set when Dierdorff (4-6) walked leadoff batter Cody Jones on five pitches. Walking the leadoff hitter is never a good sign, and that issue plagued WVU through the game, as it issued seven free passes overall. That freebie was a terrible indication of things to come, as Boomer White singled on the first pitch he saw. Two pitches later Jantzen Wittle doubled down the left field line to drive in both runners and put TCU on the board.

One out later Derek Odell doubled off the wall in right center to make it 3-0 TCU. Brett Johnson then sent a popup to the left side of the infield, and West Virginia made its worst error of the game. Taylor Munden and Ryan Tuntland both called for the ball, but neither made the catch, allowing runners to advance to second and third with one out. Keaton Jones then ripped a double to right center to extend the lead to 5-0. One out later, ninth batter Kyle Bacak literally threw his bat at a pitch and popped it into no man's land in right for an RBI single to make it 6-0.

WVU head coach Randy Mazey had seen enough at that point, and pulled Dierdorff from the game. Shinnston, W. Va., junior Ryan Harlow came in and saved WVU from further damage, but TCU had already done enough to win the game.

The Mountaineers did not lay down for the Horned Frogs, however. Aided by Brandon' Finnegan's wildness, WVU plated two runs on two hits in the bottom of the first to make a game of it. "I told our guys, after we gave up six runs before batting, that this was a nothing to lose game and just go out and swing the bats," Mazey said.

WVU (30-21, 11-8) cut deeper into the lead after TCU added a run in the third. Jacob Rice singled to right to lead off the inning. Rice stole second, and Ryan McBroom blasted an 0-1 pitch deep over the wall in left centerfield to cut the TCU lead to 7-4.

From that point on, despite multiple scoring chances, the Mountaineers could not further dent the TCU advantage. One of the best came immediately following McBroom's blast, when WVU loaded the bases on a pair of hits and a walk, but Taylor Munden was called out looking on a pitch that was clearly outside. Munden was so incensed that he nearly committed the cardinal sin of marking the placement with his bat. That would have been an automatic trip to the showers, but Mazey intervened to get Munden back to the dugout. The WVU manager then took over the complaint department, as he could clearly be heard from the press box giving home plate umpire John Brammer several pieces of his mind.

Brammer's strike zone played a huge role in the game for both squads. His moving strike zone wreaked havoc with Finnegan and also with several WVU batters, and made it difficult for hitters on both teams to adjust and figure out what was being called from at-bat to at-bat.

Despite the inconsistencies behind the plate, WVU once again brought the tying run to the dish in the fifth inning. Fleming walked, and one out later Filauro drilled a single into left. Once again, though, bad baserunning came back to haunt the Mountaineers. Bobby Boyd hit a soft line drive to second, and Fleming was caught napping for a 4-6 double play to end the inning.

TCU (24-25, 9-11) almost broke the game back open in the sixth. Harlow walked the first two batters of the inning, prompting a trip to the mound from Mazey. TCU opted for a sacrifice bunt but Cody Jones' bunt went right back to Harlow, who fired to second to clip Bacak at second for the first out.

Mazey then brought in Ryan Tezak to try to get out of the jam. Tezak immediately uncorked a wild pitch past Filauro. However, Filauro got a perfect bounce off the blocks behind the plate and turned to tag out Odell trying to score. A fly ball to Boyd in center got WVU out of the inning, and kept the Mountaineers in the game.

West Virginia continued to put runners on base. The Mountaineers had six batters come to the plate representing the tying run on the evening, but were unable to convert. In a testament to TCU's pitching, the Mountaineers finished the game 0-6 in those situations, as the Horned Frogs shut down WVU in those key situations.

McBroom led the Mountaineers, going 2-4 with 3 RBI and a run scored. Jacob Rice and Billy Fleming also had two hits each for WVU.

West Virginia falls into a second place tie with Oklahoma State, one game behind Kansas State, one game ahead of Oklahoma and 1/2 game ahead of Baylor.

Sunday's game at Appalachian Power Park, whihc will determine the series winner, begins at 1:00 p.m.. John Means (4-2, 2.97) takes the ball for WVU. Andrew Mitchell (1-1, 3.07) will get the start for TCU.

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