The Longhorns, tops all-time in major college baseball winning percentage and long the flag bearer for the Big 12, entered with 34 wins and the desire to narrow the gap between themselves and Oklahoma State and TCU at the top of the standings. The Mountaineers' aim was more general: Play to the relentless tag that marks the back of their team T-shirts. Do that, head coach Randy Mazey thought, and everything else should fall into place.
And oh, how it did. West Virginia ripped six different Texas pitchers for a dozen runs on 14 hits in a smashing 12-6 win that not only took the series from UT for a second straight season, but did so in the grand finale' for the 43-year-old Hawley Field. Never again will the facility see a West Virginia game – and that, too, was fitting, since it had never seen one like this before. WVU, once an after-thought in the mediocre Big East, defeated its highest-ranked foe in school history in a game that, frankly, wasn't that close. The Mountaineers (26-17, 9-8 Big 12) got multi-hit games from five different players – led by three RBI and three runs scored by Taylor Munden – while scoring three-plus runs in three different innings just one game after being shutout by among the best staffs in the conference.
Texas? It turned every which way for answers, venerable head coach Augie Garrido pushing every button he could with the multitude of pitching changes. In the end, the six-time national champions never found any against a West Virginia team that scored its second-most runs all season. Besides Munden's heroics – he tattooed a fastball over the leftfield wall in the fifth inning for an 11-5 lead one inning after Texas threatened a comeback with three runs – WVU got three hits each from Ryan McBroom and Jackson Cramer as the pair combined for two doubles, four RBI and three runs scored.
Arguably the biggest of the bunch was Cramer's two-run double to right center in the second inning after the Longhorns had taken a 2-0 lead. By the time the third out of the half inning was recorded, West Virginia had a 4-2 lead, and starter John Means (6-1) had far less pressure. The lefthander battled through 6 1/3 innings, giving up six runs, but just three earned, over 11 hits. Garrido surely would have taken that stat line. Instead, none of his six pitchers lasted more than three innings, with one failing to record an out and two others lasting an inning or less.
Starter Lukas Schiraldi (6-3), hurt most Cramer's double and by multiple fielding errors, lasted just two innings and departed with UT (34-15, 11-10) down 5-2. The relievers didn't fare any better, Cooper Morgan giving up six runs and six hits over 1 2/3 innings as the Mountaineers built a 9-2 lead. WVU scored four times in the fourth inning, Billy Fleming and McBroom recording RBI singles while Jacob Rice pushed across another run on a double play ball.
It was then that one started to look at the scoreboard and wish the contest a bit further along than it was. Texas responded with three runs in the fifth to get within 9-5, and the game began to set-up as an offensive battle before Munden silenced any thoughts of a true comeback with his second homer of the season for what turned out to be an insurmountable 11-5 lead. Both teams tacked on another run, but the last three innings seemed to become more of a celebration for all 2,237 in attendance, the second-largest crowd in school history. "Let's Go, Mountaineers!" chants rang around the park. Head coach Randy Mazey said he looked into the stands every trip out to coach third base. Virtually every seat was filled, including the newly-built ones both baselines. The hillside was littered with kids playing catch, or tag, or simply rolling about.
It was, essentially, Hawley Field as it should have been years ago, and quite the proper send-off for the often criticized venue. West Virginia just took two of three from Texas for the second straight year – and did it using many of their cast-offs. When you grow up in the Lone Star state, chances are you're a Texas fan. Cramer's from Texas. So is Munden. Mazey coached for years at TCU, right in the blinding shadow of Texas baseball. And, as a famous ad once noted, when diverse, cast-aside elements come together to make something great, why, that's the American way.
There's a lot of what-ifs to be taken from this. What if West Virginia would have invested in the program more fully, and intelligently, in the past? What if somebody showed they actually gave a damn? This wasn't a weekend sweep of Central Connecticut State. This was a thrashing of Texas – which is now staring at the backsides of West Virginia in the Big 12 standings. The Mountaineers seem to be on to bigger and better things, now and in the future. The lingering question is why it took so long. That will never truly be answered by anything other than this: Apathy.
It's a shame, as is the idea that Hawley Field didn't have more games, more memories like this. It'll never be a beloved facility, all weekend write-ups to the contrary. It lacked in so many ways its difficult to know where to begin. But the ending was just right. From the time Bill Hawley, son of Roy "Legs" Hawley, for whom the field was named, threw out the first pitch to the last fastball tossed by Sean Carley, the facility did itself as proud as it could, maxed out all that was available.
Sounds kinda like the last school team that played upon it.