The Mountaineers trailed 5-3 in the seventh inning before Justin Fox’s RBI double set up Cramer, who drilled a full count breaking ball over the centerfield wall for the game winner off reliever Shawn Hunter. Oklahoma went to the southpaw to counter Cramer’s left-handed bat, and the match-up was even until Hunter left the breaker up in the zone. More than 400 feet later, the offering landed in the parking lot for the clean-up hitter's sixth homer of the season.
“All of our lefties have been working pretty hard against left-handed pitching in practice because we knew they were going to bring some lefties out of the pen,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “I didn’t know when it got to 3-2 if he was going to get the fastball or breaking ball, but Cramer got one up. He’s a big, powerful guy and that’s why he hits in the middle of our line-up. That was as big of a hit as we have had all year.”
Hunter (0-2) would eventually take the loss, but not before Oklahoma got runners on first and second against WVU closer Blake Smith. That brought up leadoff hitter and WVU menace Kolbey Carpenter. The leftfielder hit the game-winning two-run homer in Friday’s opener, and had already touched up starter Ross Vance for two doubles, an RBI and a pair of runs scored. Carpenter, a .344 hitter, got ahead 2-0 in the count, and sat on a Smith fastball that he ripped just high and right of third baseman Justin Fox. But the homegrown kid made a leaping snow cone catch to thwart the rally and seal a series split.
The win was the biggest of the season for West Virginia (22-14, 5-6 Big 12), which trailed 3-0 after the first and 5-3 into the seventh inning stretch before the late heroics stopped the Mountaineers from dropping their third conference series in four to start the season. Cramer also had a single to finish 2-for-4 with the two RBI as the lone Mountaineer with a multi-hit game. WVU now ranks 11th in the NCAA in team home runs with 36.
“I was just trying to hit something hard,” said Cramer, who also hit the first homer in Mon County Ballpark in the last home series against Butler. “There were two outs and I didn’t want to get too big and try to hit a home run and pop out. But that was a big run and we got two runs across. That was huge and won the game for us.”
Fox and Corso both had a double and RBI as the Mountaineers out-hit Oklahoma 11-9. Ross Vance (6-2) pitched a solid 7.1 innings, allowing five tough luck earned runs on 10 hits for the victory before Smith worked the final five outs for his third save. The loss was just the fifth in the league for Oklahoma (25-16, 9-5), which entered the day in first place and left it tagged with a loss in front of 2,871 rowdy fans.
“We came into the game wanting to grab an early lead and that didn’t work out too well,” Mazey said. “They had one of the best pitchers in the country on the mound. But better to be down three in the first than the sixth or seventh. We fought back pretty well. That was the best support and crowd that we have had this season.”
Oklahoma took the 3-0 first-inning lead off Vance on a pair of doubles followed by Sheldon Neuse’s homer to left, his sixth of the season. Vance then settled, holding the Sooners scoreless over the next three frames as the Mountaineers plated runs in the first, second and fourth innings to tie. The latter run, off Corso’s double to left to score KC Huth, signaled the end for Alec Hansen, who worked 3.1 innings, allowing the three earned runs on six hits. It was an uncharacteristically short outing for the 6-7 right-hander, who routinely touched 96 mph in this game after hitting triple digits earlier in the year.
At that point, the momentum belonged to West Virginia. But the Mountaineers gave it right back in the top of the fifth inning when Shaun Wood misplayed a fly out in left with a runner on. Wood started back on the ball, moving to his right. But the ball, off the bat Carpenter, tailed toward the line, and landed behind Wood while rolling to the wall. What should have been a one-on, one-out situation became runners at second and third with no outs, and Oklahoma scored them both via a single and fielder’s choice for the 5-3 lead going to the bottom of the fifth inning.
Because the play wasn’t routine, and was a mental error, it was properly ruled a hit, meaning Vance was charged for both runs. The lefty continued to throw well, however, and kept Oklahoma off the board in the sixth and seventh innings before WVU got the big blow from Cramer for the 6-5 lead. Vance then struck out the first batter in the eighth inning before giving way to Smith. He finished with seven strikeouts and a walk, bringing his season total to 53 punch-outs against 23 free passes. Vance has a 3.43 ERA.
“Early in the game he was getting some balls up and they were driving balls, but he got some ground balls later and when he gets ground balls his stuff is working,” Mazey said.
The series concludes Sunday at 11 a.m. The time change – the contest was originally slated for 1 p.m. – was due to Oklahoma’s traveling schedule. WVU will start sophomore right-hander Chad Donato (5-3, 1.61 ERA), while the Sooners counter with Robert Tasin (6-1, 1.66 ERA).