Early Miscues Doom WVU

West Virginia gambled by not throwing its number one starter in its opening pool play game in the Big 12 Baseball Championships, and the resulting 7-2 loss to Kansas put them in a hole going to Friday's second contest.

The Mountaineers hoped that starter Dan Dierdorff, who pitched well against Kansas in WVU's sweep earlier this season, could again craft a quality start, but two early Jayhawk runs put West Virginia in a hole from which it could not recover. Dierdorff contributed to that deficit with a pair of mistakes on Kansas bunts. After Justin Protacio led off the game with a double over the head of Jacob Rice, Dierdorff tried to get him at third on Kevin Kuntz' sacrifice attempt, The throw was high, pulling Ryant Tuntland off the bag, and both Jayhawks were safe. Michael Suiters ensuing bunt was mishandled by Dierdorff, scoring and again leaving all safe.

"That's a play I make 99 times out of a hundred," Dierdorff said afterword. "I went off into a little room and counted to ten and calmed myself down."

The senior righthander got the next two batters out, but gave up a two-out single for an unearned run, putting WVU down two after the first half inning.

WVU mounted threats in its half of the first and second innings, putting two runners aboard with only one out in each, but the Mountaineers couldn't come up with the big hits to put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Tuntland and Ryan McBroom struck out to end the first, and a pop-up and another strikeout ended the second after Alan Filauro's double scored Bobby Fleming.

Leading 2-1, Kansas starter Thomas Taylor settled into a major groove. Beginning with the final two outs of the second, the Jayhawk starter sat down 18 consecutive Mountaineers in order. Taylor was masterful without being overpowering. He located all of his pitches well, and got the aggressive Mountaineer batters to go after pitches early in the count. He had five pitch innings in the sixth and seventh, and threw just 96 overall in 7 1/3 innings of work.

Meanwhile, Kansas was giving Taylor all the cushion he needed. KU added two runs in the seventh and eighth, and carried a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the inning. That gave the Jayhawks some breathing room when the Mountaineers finally displayed some offense in the bottom of the eighth.

WVU put two runners aboard on a hit batsman and a walk, and Jacob Rice delivered a single to score a run and put two aboard. Tuntland then singled sharply to load the bases for Ryan McBroom, and whe he laced a line drive up the middle Mountaineer fans thought they had something to cheer about. However, Protacio ranged a couple of steps to his right, snared the crushed ball and doubled Rice off the bag to end the inning.

"That was a big play," WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. "You can't hit it any harder than McBroom did, and there's probably not a baserunner around that wouldn't have gotten doubled off on that hit. It's just baseball."

Dierdorff gave WVU the respectable start it needed, but the errors early in the game proved too much to overcome. He yielded four runs (three earned) on nine hits, and did not walk a batter while striking out five. WVU middle relief, a sore spot for part of the year, was again shaky, with Josh Harlow giving up two runs and Corey Holmes another in the final two frames.

Rice has two hits for the Mountaineers, who managed just seven overall. Six of those were singles, with Constantini's sharp double down the third base line the only extra base hit.

West Virginia plays again on Friday, May 24 at 4:00 p.m. CDT\5:00 p.m. EDT against TCU. Harrison Musgrave is slated to get the start for the Mountaineers.

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