One of the key factors of West Virginia's resurrection of its baseball program has been aggressiveness on the basepaths, but the Mountaineers have pushed it much too far during their visit to Norman, Okla., this weekend. WVU was able to overcome a pickoff and three failed steal attempts in Thursday's win, but two shaky decisions on Friday contributed directly to the loss.
The first came in the bottom of the sixth, after WVU had tied the game at 3-3. With Jacob Rice on third and Brad Johnson on first, Rice broke for the plate while Oklahoma pitcher Adam Choplick was settling himself on the mound prior to a pitch. However, he quickly responded and fired to the plate to nail Rice easily.
"We completely screwed that double steal play up," Mazey told IMG College Sports, intimating that a missed sign contributed to the havoc.
The Mountaineers then ran themselves out of another scoring chance in the top of the eighth. Bobby Boyd singled and stole second, but with Ryan McBroom at the plate and two out, Boyd took off for third on what appeared to be a delayed steal. Boyd was shot down easily, taking the bat out of McBroom's hands and denying him the chance to give WVU the lead.
"Bobby creates a lot of havoc for the defense and sometimes he plays a little out of control. BUt after working with him to play aggressively, I'm not going to get mad about him about playing aggressively. "He just has to learn when to go and when not to go."
Starter Harrison Musgrave was not at his best, as Oklahoma put up eight hits and five earned runs against the #1 starter. Musgrave walked five and struck out two, but kept WVU in the game until yielding a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth that ended up being the winning margin.
WVU again broke out on top early, getting a run in the second when Jacob Rice singled, moved to third on a throwing error by the catcher, and then came home on a Brad Johnson groundout. Oklahoma quickly responded, though, scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning after Musgrave got the first two out. Three consecutive hits, (including a double, a triple and a single), combined to give OU a 2-1 lead.
West Virginia responded in the top of the third, manufacturing the tying score when Michael Constantini walked, moved to third on a sacrifice and a Bobby Boyd hit, then came home on a Billy Fleming fielders choice. Fleming's hustle down the line prevented an inning-ending double play to get the run home.
The back and forth continued two innings later, as OU took the lead with a triple and a sacrifice fly. West Virginia again responded, tying it up on a Brad Johnson single that scored Ryan McBroom. However, that threat ended with Rice being nailed at the plate.
WVU managed just six hits against excellent Oklahoma pitching. Boyd had two of those, while Johnson had two RBI.
"Good teams play good back-to-back games and we didn't do that," Mazey summed up. "We missed some signs, bunted some balls fouls and misplayed some balls in the outfield."
The series concludes on Saturday with a 1:00 p.m. Eastern start. West Virginia's starting pitcher remains undetermined, as Sean Carley was prepared as a reliever for this series. As he was not needed in the first two games, the decision to flip him back to a starting role could be a difficult mental assignment. Jacob Evans is the announced starter for Oklahoma.
WVU got Justin Fox back from the injury list for this game. The West Virginia native filled the designated hitter position on Saturday. His return was balanced by the loss of catcher Ray Guerrini, who injured an ankle against Ohio State and could miss the series.
Fox was 0-2 before Max Nogay pinch-hit for him in the top of the sixth.