Walter Answers When Called Upon

When Corey Walter got word that he could be getting the ball to start West Virginia's game against TCU in the Big 12 Conference championship, the senior knew it was an opportunity he couldn't let go to waste.

"Being a senior you never know how many more outings you're going to have wearing the West Virginia uniform," Walter said. "It was really special for me. I knew I had to give us a chance to win."

And Walter responded when the Mountaineers needed him to, facing off with Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Preston Morrison - and matching him for the most part throughout his outing.

Much like he knew he would be when he found out he was getting the start, Walter was tested time and time again, answering the call and finding ways to get his team out of any trouble with none or minimal damage.

The first example came in the fifth inning, after holding the Horned Frogs hitless through the first four frames. Walter walked the first batter he faced, and when centerfielder Bobby Boyd wasn't able to hold on and catch a fly ball to deep left center on the next hitter Walter found himself in a tight spot with runners on second and third with no outs.

A one-out single two batters later got the Horned Frogs out front with a 1-0 lead, but Walter was able to buckle down and get an inning-ending double play to get out of the jam without letting things get out of hand.

"Today I was able to command my fastball really well," Walter said. "I think that just led, maybe, to them sitting on an outside pitch when I was coming in and jammed them a little bit. It allowed me to get those ground balls and really helped me."

While his stat line won't necessarily look like it, Walter's performance Friday night was easily one of the best he has had in quite some time - a sentiment echoed by his head coach after the game. With the exception of a five-run eighth inning that could have been much better than what it was had one or two things gone his way, Walter was just as good as his counterpart in the other dugout as both starters were locked in one of the tournament's best pitching battles so far this week.

"Corey Walter was fun to watch today. That was unbelievable," said WVU head coach Randy Mazey. "I hope that's not his last outing as a Mountaineer. He's been getting better. The difference for him was when we gave him a start against Oklahoma on a Sunday ... I thought his stuff started clicking."

In his fifth start of the season since moving back into the rotation as the Mountaineers' midweek starter, Walter threw 7.2 innings, allowing four hits and six runs while striking out three. With the exception of the five-run eighth inning, which was kickstarted when Walter began having issues with his control - walking three hitters and hitting a batter before a couple of timely hits allowed TCU to come through with the big inning.

It was the Wheeling, W.Va., native's third start in which he has gone at least seven innings, and it was another flash of seeing the player who was the Mountaineers' No. 1 starter at the beginning of last season and in the weekend rotation at the beginning of Big 12 play in 2013.

"Walter is our fourth starter now, and he's a lot better for that," said Mountaineer pitching coach Derek Matlock. "He's a guy who needs to feel out the game. He's not always going to be good early, but then can still give you about five or six innings once he gets into a groove."

If this was Walter's final start as a Mountaineer, it was a great way to go out - even though he didn't get the win. But one thing is for sure, if WVU gets into the postseason, Mazey will not hesitate to give him the call once again.

"I have no doubt in my mind that Corey Walter can beat any team we could potentially face," Mazey said.

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