For the Hokies, it was an easy seventh consecutive win and a showcase of their offensive firepower. For the Mountaineers? Yet another defeat in which there were questionable defensive decisions, a lack of pitching and offense and the trademark early deficit that turned into a romp by the middle of the game. Virginia Tech scored 10 runs over the first five innings, leading 10-2 and sending WVU to a sixth straight loss and 11th in 14 games that disintegrated a once-promising season.
Blame the youth, the depth, the tiring staff. There’s plenty to go around on a young team with some promise for the future. But West Virginia (24-23) is mired in as deep a funk as anytime in head coach Randy Mazey’s era – even with the coach himself having missed the game serving a suspension after being ejected in the series sweep finale against No. 4 TCU on Sunday.
Tech left-hander Jon Woodcock (3-2) scattered seven hits over seven innings for among his best starts of the season. The junior allowed two runs, one earned on Caleb Potter’s solo home run, while striking out three on just 98 pitches. Woodcock got plenty of backing, the Hokies pounding out 13 hits in reaching double digit runs for the eighth time this year. West Virginia, meanwhile, mustered only two runs with the game in doubt and couldn’t capitalize on the rare chances runners moved into scoring position. Jeff Hardy, making his first career start for WVU, was pulled after just two innings – though that’s often part of midweek play. Hardy (2-1) allowed four runs, three earned, before giving way to Shane Ennis. The freshman allowed six runs over just 2.1 innings, walking the bases loaded in one inning as Virginia Tech (26-24) had 10 of its runs by the time his book closed.
Among the few bright spots was the three-hit performance by Tucker Cascadden, who also had an RBI. Reliever Adam Keller pitched the seventh and eighth innings, becoming the only one of six Mountaineer pitchers to record more than one out without giving up multiple runs. Aside from that, the Hokies had complete control of the contest; All but three Virginia Tech starters had an RBI for a team that went over the 255 RBI mark for the season. Power hitters Brendon Hayden and Erik Payne went a combined 4-for-8 with three RBI and four runs scored as both moved over the 50 RBI mark on the season.
Cascadden put West Virginia head 1-0 when his RBI single scored Garrett Hope from second base. But that was about all the offense the Mountaineers would muster; Virginia Tech emphatically answered in the bottom half, getting a sac fly to tie at 1-1, then the big blow from leadoff hitter Saige Jenco on a bases-loaded triple for a 4-1 lead. Jenco’s shot to the right center wall, one of his three hits, came after a hit by pitch and a fielding error – just the latest miscues that allowed yet another big inning and put the Mountaineers in another early hole.
Far too often in this latest of losing streaks has WVU fallen behind within the first three innings, often on unearned runs after the Mountaineers should have recorded three outs. It’s amounted to a six game streak that is looking eerily similar to last season’s collapse – nine losses in the final 10 games –that cost West Virginia its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1996. Now, WVU will certainly miss the postseason again as this streak continues to balloon with a three-game set against a Top 15 team looming.
After Jenco’s first of two triples – he finished with a season-best six RBI – Virginia Tech retired WVU in order in the top of the third inning, then expanded the advantage to 6-1 on Payne’s two-run homer in the bottom half. That came off Ennis, who had replaced Hardy. Ennis then allowed an RBI single before walking the bases loaded around a pair of outs to set-up another two-run single that pushed the lead to 9-2. Potter hit his fourth home run off the year in the top half to get West Virginia within 6-2.
Tech made it 10-2 with an RBI single in the fifth inning, then 12-2 on Jenco’s two-RBI grounder through the right side in the sixth before the Hokies started to substitute freely. Tech scored every inning from the second through the sixth inning. WVU plated its third run on a Shaun Corso single up the middle in the eighth inning that plated Potter. Jenco then added his other RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth on a shot to right field for the 13-3 difference. It was centerfielder’s third RBI with two outs in an inning. The Hokies now lead the all-time series 53-32-1.
Mazey did not travel for the game as part of his two-game suspension following his violation of NCAA Rule 2-26, A.R. 7 (prolonged arguing or unsportsmanlike conduct following an ejection) after his ejection after the third inning of Sunday’s game against TCU. Mazey will also miss Friday’s road opener at No. 12 Oklahoma State (31-15). Assistant coach Derek Matlock served as WVU’s acting head coach.
First pitch Friday is at 8 p.m. eastern. The Mountaineers have yet to announce starters, but are expected to throw BJ Myers on Friday, followed by Ross Vance on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Chad Donato on Sunday at 2 p.m. Last place West Virginia trails Baylor, idle this upcoming weekend, by a half game in the Big 12 standings.