WVU Bruised, Beaten In The Brawl

GRANVILLE, W.Va. - Pitt stymied West Virginia’s struggling offense as the Mountaineers struck out 15 times in losing 4-1 on Tuesday.

WVU was never able to get the clutch hit, leaving runners on in all but one inning and failing to capitalize on numerous opportunities throughout in losing for the seventh time in eight games. Taylor Munden, the team captain, stranded four runners over the fifth and seventh innings as he flew out and struck out to spoil the best chances of the game for West Virginia. But that was just the most glaring of the Mountaineers’ miscues.

Besides the 15 strikeouts – second-most at home this season – West Virginia finished with four errors and numerous passed balls and wild pitches to help a struggling Pitt team win for just the second time in eight games. It was essentially a microcosm of all the mistakes made during a second straight May collapse that’s left the program having to win two of three against Texas Tech this weekend to finish with a winning regular season record after being nine games over .500 at one point as WVU has now lost nine of 11 and has scored four or fewer runs in 11 of their last 15 games.

There weren’t many bright spots in front of the 3,037 in attendance, third-most at home in school history. Other than Kyle Davis’ three hits and a triple and diving catch in centerfield by KC Huth, the Mountaineers (25-24) were as quiet as they have been all season in settling for the series split with the Panthers (18-31). The team combined to leave 21 on base, Pitt responsible for 11. Aside from Davis, now the only West Virginia player hitting over .300 on the season, the Mountaineers combined for four hits against a staff with a 4.67 ERA entering.

“We are gonna have to play a lot better than what we than we did tonight,” head coach Randy Mazey said of the last regular season series against Texas Tech. “Getting this game in will help us for this weekend even though we lost.”

Maybe. But it didn’t much help the midweek mark, which fell to 1-6 over its last seven games. Combine that with a Big 12 slate that has the Mountaineers battling to stay out of the basement and thus miss the eight-team postseason tournament, and WVU’s RPI has fallen below 100 after reaching the mid-40s at points this season.

“Great crowd, great atmosphere, great everything,” Mazey said. “It’s just a matter of time until we get them really excited about baseball.”

Pitt, which seized the game with a two-run double in the seventh inning, was able to limit any damage the Mountaineers seemed ready to do in multiple innings. WVU missed a huge opportunity in the fifth inning when Huth tripled into the right field corner and Justin Fox walked with one out and WVU trailing 2-1. That set up Davis, a .349 hitter entering the at-bat, but the designated hitter struck out looking on three pitches. Munden then followed with a fly out to right on the first pitch, ending the inning and spoiling a solid chance.

The teams were tied 1-1 after three innings. Pitt scored an unearned run in the second inning off a single and resulting throwing error combined with an infield single and base hit to left. The Mountaineers answered in the third inning with Munden’s RBI single to left after Davis singled and advanced on a passed ball. Pitt then reclaimed the edge on a second unearned run, scoring on Ray Guerrini’s passed ball with runners at second and third after a single and fielding error on a bunt.

West Virginia threatened to tie in the bottom half when Jackson Cramer reached second base after striking out on a ball that got away from Pitt catcher Manny Pazos. Pazos’ throw to first hit Cramer in the back and rolled away, allowing the clean-up hitter to move into scoring position. But he was stranded there when Isaac Mattson (1-1) struck out Brad Johnson, Caleb Potter and Shaun Corso, all swinging. The four strikeouts in one inning brought his season total to 37, fourth-most on the team, and were the most in any one inning this year for the right-hander, who took the win.

Adam Keller (1-2) had the loss for WVU, pitching three innings and allowing two runs, none earned because of the miscues. He struck out four and walked one. Rich Condeelis threw the final 2.1 innings for the save, his second of the season.

West Virginia finishes the regular season with a three-game set against Texas Tech (29-20, 12-9) starting on Thursday. The Mountaineers (7-12 Big 12) are currently a half game ahead of Kansas (7-13) for the eighth and final postseason tournament spot. The Jayhawks play a three-game set at home against rival Kansas State (8-13) starting Friday.

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