The Mountaineers, losers of five in a row and 10 of 13, failed to score for the for the second time this season and were hurt by a series of questionable calls that eventually led to the ejection of head coach Randy Mazey for arguing. The first, a clearly missed called third strike that led to a 2-0 lead on starter Chad Donato, was piggybacked by a strange turn of events in between the third and fourth innings.
WVU’s Ray Guerrini was injured during a run down between first and second base. The sophomore slid on his left arm, opening a bleeding turf burn as he was tagged out. Guerrini, the catcher, was tending to the injury in the dugout and took more than the NCAA allotted 90 seconds to reach the field. By rule, the umpiring crew is required to call a ball on the first batter before a pitch is even thrown. But the NCAA rule, approved in 2010, also allows for additional time because of injuries. The umpiring crew, according to chief Josh Schepis, wasn’t informed of the injury and thus called the ball after the timed 90 seconds.
“One of our guys was injured and being tended to in the dugout, and the rule is if you don’t start in 90 seconds, whoever’s fault it is gives you ball one or a strike one,” Mazey said. “If the offense is late getting out there it’s supposed to be strike one, if it’s the defense it’s ball one. I don’t think they were aware we had an injured player in there.”
The ejection, according to NCAA rules, is automatic once Mazey steps on the field. Schepis said in a statement to media that “by rule, a coach isn’t allowed to come argue when a ball is administered for delay of game between innings. It was at two minutes we issued a ball and Coach Mazey continued to come out on the field to argue the call. At no point was I informed there was an injury of any kind by any member of West Virginia’s team, players or coaches.”
Mazey spoke with the crew for approximately a minute before making the long walk to right field and out of the stadium. By NCAA rule, coaches cannot be where they can view the game, so Mazey eventually left the area, saying he “went to Cooper’s Rock with binoculars.” He returned to speak with reporters. It was the first ejection of Mazey’s WVU tenure.
“He told me this is not an arguable call and if I come out on the field, it’s an automatic ejection,” Mazey said. “But when he told me that I was already on the field. That’s baseball. I hate to do it; that’s the first time it ever happened here for me. But I was trying to stick up for my team. I believe in our team and I believe in what they are doing.”
But oh, how that belief is getting tested after the three-game sweep, the first of the season against West Virginia. The Mountaineers scored a season-low six runs during the series as TCU never used its bullpen before the ninth inning, its starters recording all but eight outs. Alex Young (9-2) worked through eight innings, picking up his fourth shutout appearance and getting within three outs of a complete game for the second time this season. WVU finished with just five hits, and truly threatened Young only once, getting two runners in scoring position with two outs before Shaun Wood grounded out. Shaun Corso was the only Mountaineer with two hits as Young lowered his ERA to 1.46, the third-best in the Big 12.
“The good news is we aren’t going to face a pitching staff like that the rest of the season,” Mazey said. “The guy they throw on Sunday would be pitching on Friday for everybody else. The results didn’t work out. I told these guys that people’s true colors show up when things go wrong. We got swept for the first time this year. Things have gone wrong, so now is the time you need to have pride and character.”
Donato threw seven solid innings, allowing three runs, just two earned, against the Big 12’s best hitting team. His breaking ball was fierce, and froze Dane Steinhagen on a 2-2 pitch that ended belt high and down the middle. But plate umpire Jim Schaly inexplicably called a ball, and Donato (6-5) then lost the left fielder when he reached on an error. Steinhagen stole second and scored on a single for the 2-0 lead. That came after a sac fly in the first was just the start of the fireworks, as Mazey was then ejected going to the top of the fourth after the Guerrini injury.
“I felt like I helped the team out, did my part, my team just wasn’t there to back me up,” Donato said. “Unfortunately, you can’t win a baseball game with no runs, and I didn’t get any run support today. Everybody in the ball park saw that was strike three. The batter knew it was strike three. I guess I fooled the umpire. I guess he blinked.”
The Horned Frogs added on in the sixth inning on a similar set of bad circumstances. A full count walk and steal led to a runner on third after a one-out groundout. That set up Garret Crain, who weakly chopped a swinging bunt toward third. Donato came off the mound and made a snap throw to first, only to have Crain barely beat the throw for the RBI and a 3-0 TCU lead. The Frogs added a fourth run on Crain’s RBI single to center and a fifth on a fielder’s choice for the final 5-0 margin in moving to 8-2 all-time against the Mountaineers.
TCU (36-9, 13-5) entered as the Big 12’s best staff in terms of ERA, ranking third in the nation, and did nothing to dispel that notion. West Virginia (24-22, 6-12) has now scored more than four runs only twice in their last 10 games. Baylor (19-28, 8-13) beat Kansas 14-4 on Sunday to move past WVU into eighth place in the conference, the final postseason spot. Baylor has one conference series left against fifth-place Texas.
West Virginia has a much tougher slate left, playing its next four games on the road, starting at Virginia Tech on Tuesday. First pitch is 5:30 p.m. The Mountaineers then have a three-game set at No. 12 Oklahoma State during the weekend before home contests against Pitt and Texas Tech.
“It seems like everything we do – we hit a ball hard and it gets caught, if we do a hit and run, we get caught stealing,” Guerrini said. “Right now we are not clicking, but we are making small changes and I have all the confidence that we are going to turn I around for a late-season run.”
WVU paired with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to award Kayla, an 11-year-old girl, with her wish for a English bulldog puppy before the game. Kayla has been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. She also received multiple other gifts for the dog.