Successful Finish

While West Virginia's salvaging 5-4 win over Oklahoma State might not register large on the Big 12 scale, it was an important one for a Mountaineer team attempting to find its stride after a tough week.

WVU came into the OSU series with a chance to win the Big 12, albeit with some help from other teams. After Friday's loss, it was faced with a potential six-game regular season ending losing streak and a definite downward turn heading into the Big 12 conference tournament. However, as it has done for much of the year, West Virginia battled hard and came away with a closer-than-it-needed-to-be win over the Cowboys in the final game of the series.

The win not only gave WVU a 13-11 conference record (31-25 overall), but guaranteed that the Mountaineers will finish no worse than fourth after being picked dead last in the league entering the season. It also gives WVU a bit of momentum heading into the opening game of the Big 12 tournament next Wednesday.

WVU flipped the script of the first two games of the series, and the eventual result, by getting off to a good start. The Mountaineers manufactured a run in the first when Bobby Boyd, who returned to the leadoff spot, singled to start the game. He promptly stole second, moved to third on a groundout, then scored on Jacob Rice's sacrifice fly.

OSU responded with a run of its own in the first, by again, as it did for most of the series, capitalizing on West Virginia mistakes. Saulyer Saxton got aboard after being hit by a pitch and moved to third on a wild pitch before coming home on a groundout to tie the score.

WVU again ground out a run in the second when Boyd and Wilson singled, with the former eventually coming home on a Rice groundout.

The back and forth affair evened out again in the fifth, when two hits and a throwing error loaded the bases for OSU with no outs, however, reliever Ryan Tezak was able to escape the jam with minimal damage after walking home a run against the initial batter he faced.

WVU retook the lead with another single run in the next inning, but like the Cowboys failed on the chance to put up a crooked number. The Mountaineers put the first two batters on and had runners at second and third with one out, but were only able to get one run home, this one coming on Bobby Fleming's fielder's choice, which put WVU ahead 3-2.

That wasn't all the scoring on either side, though, as West Virginia put up two insurance runs that proved to be the difference in the game. Matt Frazer smoked an opposite field home run in the eight to put the Mountaineers up by two, and WVU got another run in the ninth. It again left the bases loaded, but with a 5-2 lead that didn't seem to be a big deal, until the Cowboys came to the plate for their last licks.

After Tezak retired the first two batters on called thrid strikes, Donnie Walton and Tanner Krietemeier hit back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches to narrow the gap to 5-4. That brought on closer Pascal Paul, who induced a ground ball to second for the final out of the game.

WVU got solid pitching from starter Brock Dykxhoorn, who made his first start against a Big 12 team this year. He pitched 4 2/3 innings, and gave up just one earned run while striking out four. Tezak had one of his best appearances of the year, getting all the remaining outs except one. He struck out six of the 20 batters he faced.

WVU bats, silent for much of the series, awoke against Cowboy starter Mark Robinette. Boyd was the quintessential leadoff hitter, getting aboard three times, stealing two bases and scoring three times. Wilson, Ryan Tuntland and Michael Constantini, who replaced a struggling Taylor Munden at shortstop. Rice contributed two RBIs.

WVU must now await the result of games tonight and Sunday to learn its final seeding for the tournament. A third place finish, which the Mountaineers could achieve pendig the results of the Oklahoma - Kansas State series, would pit WVU against Kansas in its opening game. If the Sooners nab third place in the league, West Virginia will play Baylor in the opening round.

Kansas State and Oklahoma State have wrapped up the top two spots in the league.

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