The opponents might differ, by the story is the same for the Mountaineers, who fell behind 3-0 early and despite getting runners on in five innings, never mustered the key hit in squandering an opportunity to pick up a top 20 RPI victory. Radford starter Zach Ridgely (3-1) shut down West Virginia’s increasingly anemic offense for six innings, scattering five hits and one unearned run as the Highlanders won their fifth game in the last six. WVU is going the other way, managing just three runs or less for the seventh time in the last 10 games while suffering routine early deficits in the 3-7 spurt that has eliminated any thoughts of the NCAA Tournament.
“We are in a dogfight to make the conference tournament,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “Don’t look ahead, don’t look back.”
The Mountaineers amassed nine hits, with a trio of players managing two hits in head coach Randy Mazey’s shuffled line-up – but never a key one in leaving six runners on. Worse, West Virginia was beaten by Marshall for a second straight day, this time Radford’s Patrick Marshall, who went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI – part of a 13-hit outburst by the Highlanders. The designated hitter was a triple away from the cycle against the WVU, which used eight pitchers, none of whom threw more than two innings, that by starter Connor Dotson (0-4), who took the loss. Five off the last six hurlers gave up runs, Radford (30-14) scoring its last four times at the plate.
That was more than West Virginia (24-19) managed all game, the Mountaineers shutout through the first five innings while Ridgley set down 10 in a row and 16 of 18 at one point. The game, though just a 3-0 spread after five innings, felt eerily similar to earlier nonconference defeats to Penn State and Marshall in that WVU never seemed to capitalize on numerous chances while opponents played with superior effort and focus in pulling what would have been termed upsets a few weeks ago, but now seem like the new standard of non-Big 12 play for West Virginia. Radford, meanwhile, has won 30 games for a school-record third straight season and is in contention for an at-large NCAA berth.
KC Huth, Kyle Davis and Caleb Potter had multi-hit games for the Mountaineers, Huth tallying a double and RBI with Davis scoring a run. The trio was essentially the entire offense for West Virginia, which again had a chance early as Huth and Davis led off the game singles, with Davis stealing second to put two runners in scoring position with no outs.
But Jackson Cramer struck out on a full count pitch before Potter failed to get a suicide squeeze bunt down, leaving Huth hung up. Hugh retreated to third, but Davis has already taken the bag, and was the runner called out when both were tagged on the same base. That left a runner on third for Potter, who promptly struck out, meaning the Mountaineers turned a two-on, no out situation into nothing in an early glimpse of the entire contest.
The bottom half of the inning was just as odd, with Dotson giving up a pair of doubles, then picking the runner off second both times. Those plays sandwiched a routine fly out, and somehow both teams put multiple runners into scoring position, but came away scoreless after one inning. The frustration continued for the Mountaineers in the top of the third inning, WVU failing to score after putting runners on the corners with zero outs.
After Garrett Hope and Tucker Cascadden reached, Huth flied out to right with no tag up for a score. Davis then struck out and Cramer grounded out, leaving two in scoring position after Cascadden stole second. Radford led 1-0 at that point, Marshall having homered in the top half for his team-best eighth of the season.
“Offensively, we are not (hitting as) a team,” Mazey said. “Our guys are really good hitters with nobody on base and not very good with hitters on base. You can get a rally going and get nothing. We lost this game in the first two innings, getting guys on and we didn’t score any runs. It gave them life. We had all those baserunners and didn’t score and they hit a solo homer with one swing of the bat.”
The Highlanders extended the advantage to 3-0 in the fifth inning when Nick Wernke, the fourth WVU pitcher of the game, had a wild pitch on a strikeout followed by a hit batsman. A sac bunt and double by Brad Keen later, Radford had added two runs. Wernke then loaded the bases with two walks before getting a strikeout to limit the damage. West Virginia answered with a run in the sixth on a single, double, walk and passed ball before Ray Guerrini struck out to leave the bases loaded. Guerrini has not had a hit since the April 12 series finale against Butler, a span of 10 games.
The Mountaineers managed single runs in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th innings, but that was more than offset by a Radford offense that scored two, one, two and three runs over the final four frames. Mazey tried to give West Virginia a burst, sitting captain Taylor Munden and third basemen Justin Fox, among others, but that youthful energy never materialized and certainly never translated.
The Mountaineers are 13-12 in true road games and have lost the seven of 10 since winning 12 of 14; WVU still must play nine of its final 11 games against teams in the Top 30, including a half dozen against top 12 foes starting this weekend with No. 5 TCU. Radford has won 18 of its last 21 games.
“We get second and third and nobody out against their pitching staff we have to find a way to score runs,” Mazey said. “It’s a decision at this point. It’s not about doing anything else but making a decision not to lose. We will see how the Fox’s and Munden’s find a way to take this team on their back and lead down the stretch.”
West Virginia hosts the Horned Frogs (34-8, 10-5) in a three-game series this weekend. The Mountaineers, tied for sixth in the Big 12, are expected to start BJ Myers, Ross Vance and Chad Donato. TCU, currently tied with Oklahoma for second in the conference behind Oklahoma State, has not announced starters. Friday’s game time is 6 p.m. It is a Family Day, with four tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas and a box of popcorn for $25. That package must be ordered by Thursday. Fireworks will follow the contest.