Ennis, a freshman right-hander, shut down Texas over the final three innings, allowing a stagnant Mountaineer offense to manufacture its only run since the third inning when Huth drew the walk to score Kyle Davis after his single. Huth, down 1-2 in the count, battled back to draw a seven-pitch walk, which forced Davis across after the designated hitter advanced on consecutive singles by Cam O’Brien and Ray Guerrini.
“KC Huth with an unbelievable at bat, Ray Guerrini with an unbelievable one before that,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. “If you like college baseball, you saw a little bit of everything in this game.”
It was just Huth’s second walk of the season, the other coming in extra innings against Coastal Carolina, and it staved off a second straight extra inning loss and a third in as many games this season after UT won the opener 4-3 in 11 innings. The two games had eerily similar feels, WVU building early leads and failing to hold on; a loss would have been the fourth straight in extra innings – and the eighth in nine such games dating to 2013, but the salvaged victory keeps West Virginia (8-7) in position to capture a third straight series win over the Longhorns (12-7).
“We came out guns blazing and we got hits out of the gate and scored six runs,” Mazey said. “It happens all the time in baseball, you get a lot of runs and you hit a lull. Credit them. We had some defensive Lapses, but when they game was on the line, we had so many guys step up.”
The game was a battle of momentum over the first six innings, with WVU going ahead 6-0 only to see Texas mount a methodical comeback and tie the game at 6-6 in the sixth inning. It was a similar story to the series opener, when the Mountaineers led 3-1 before Texas eventually rallied. Starter Ross Vance battled throughout, throwing 117 pitches and allowing four earned runs in working into the eighth inning before giving way to Ennis, who pushed the game into extra frames and eventually got the win in throwing 2.2 shutout innings without a hit in among the most impressive relief performances of the season.
“As long as we could get somebody to come in and stop the bleeding, and he did, then we would be ok,” Mazey said. “He did it, against Texas. This is Texas! A kid from Romney, West Virginia doing great things in Austin, Texas.”
Texas starter Josh Sawyer didn’t fare as well, throwing just two full innings before reliever Connor Mays entered and absolutely shut down a solid Mountaineer offense. After the six runs, Mays set down 17 of 18 WVU hitters at one point, including 15 in a row. He struck out 10 after having seven total strikeouts the entire season entering. Both took a no decision, Ty Culbreth (2-1) being saddled with the loss after the bases loading walk for the difference.
Until the game settled, however, it was as offensive an affair as any this season as West Virginia took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a single, walk, balk and Davis’ single to score Taylor Munden and Brad Johnson. Texas threatened in the bottom half with two on and one out, but Vance induced a grounder to third for the 5-4-3 double play to end the threat. The Mountaineers added three runs in the third when Munden drilled a single to center to score O’Brien from second base. West Virginia got two more when Jackson Cramer’s single to right field got past Colin Shaw, allowing Munden to score from second and Fox, who reached on single, to come all the way around from first for a 5-0 lead.
That signaled the end for Sawyer, especially after the freshman walked Davis on five pitches to start the third inning. It was his shortest start of his five appearances, with six runs, five earned, when Davis scored off O’Brien’s single to left after being sacrificed to second base. That pushed the lead to 6-0, and the Mountaineers were in position for more when Munden struck out on a full count breaking ball from Mays with two runners on.
Texas cut the deficit to 6-2 with runs in the third and fourth innings, and were primed for more in the fifth after Ben Johnson’s triple. But Johnson, the hottest hitter in the Big 12 with a .438 average, was picked off when catcher Ray Guerrini’s snap throw to third caught Johnson unaware, and Fox applied the tag without a slide. That seemed to be the end of the threat, but Vance then gave up consecutive walks and a double as the Longhorns got within 6-4. Texas tied it at 6-6 in the sixth inning on just one hit because of two defensive miscues by the Mountaineers. The pitching settled from there, going scoreless in the seventh, eighth and ninth.
Munden, Cramer, Davis and O’Brien all had two hits, with Davis adding two RBI and two runs scored. Munden also scored twice and had an RBI and Cramer added a double for West Virginia’s only extra base hit of its 11 in the game. Texas finished with 10 hits, led by three from Michael Cantu.
WVU, which has won four of five, will send Chad Donato (2-2) to the mound Sunday. Donato has a team-best 1.44 ERA, and picked up a win in last weekend’s sweep of East Tennessee State. Game times is 1:30 p.m. Texas has not announced a starter.