WVU Drops Series Final, Awaits Big 12 Seed

GRANVILLE, W.Va. - Ty Damron threw five solid innings and Texas Tech ripped West Virginia’s pitching as the Mountaineers dropped the series finale 8-2 on Saturday.

WVU, which had clinched a Big 12 Tournament spot by winning the first two games, had a brief 2-0 lead before the Red Raiders put up five runs in the third inning. That, combined with additional runs in two of the next three innings pushed the deficit to 8-2 and essentially sealed the 27-25 overall mark and 9-13 league finish. The latter likely puts the Mountaineers into seventh place, which would mean an opening round game against No. 13 Oklahoma State.

West Virginia beat OSU 5-4 in the only game of a rain-shortened series last weekend, and had a season-best three-game conference winning streak entering, but never got untracked after struggling against Damron (4-2) in the sophomore’s first career road start. The left-hander mixed locations and speeds to scatter five hits and allow just two runs, one earned, before departing in the sixth inning. Justin Fox had two hits on his Senior Day, while KC Huth added an RBI triple and scored a run to account for both WVU scores as the Mountaineers stranded nine runners in scoring position.

“I felt like we had a really good weekend as a team and we really pulled together,” Huth said. “We have a chance to do some special things. We stranded some guys, but overall we put together some good at-bats and had some quality swings. Hopefully next week we don’t strand so many guys.”

Randy Mazey said Friday he didn’t care about the postseason seeding, but the head coach certainly wanted a more crisp performance than this. The Mountaineers used seven pitchers, none for more than 2.2 innings as the Red Raiders racked up 11 hits in advancing to 21-2 when scoring at least six runs and 26-2 when leading after six innings. Cleanup hitter Tyler Neslony had three hits with two RBI and a run scored and designated hitter Corey Raley added a triple and single for two RBI and another two runs scored. BJ Myers (2-5) took the loss, pitching just 2.2 innings as the staff tried to save his availability for the postseason.

“I thought we came out aggressive and got some hits early in the game,” Mazey said. “That’s just a good team. They showed what they are capable of offensively. There were several doubles and a triple. You play Big 12 baseball, you’re gonna pay good teams. BJ was really good early, struck out the side in the first and I thought he’d be cooking, but he left some balls up. He was only gonna throw three innings regardless.”

The contest started the same as the past two series games as Huth’s RBI triple and Garrett Hope’s ensuing ground out gave WVU the short-lived 2-0 lead in the second inning. Tech answered with five runs in the third, plating three after a trio singles and a double. Fox’s two-out error at third base then chased Myers, who allowed the three runs, all earned. Adam Keller inherited a base runner and promptly gave up a double into the right center gap and a run-scoring single for a 5-2 deficit.

The Raiders extended the lead to 6-2 in the fifth inning on Neslony’s one-out RBI single through the left side. West Virginia then went to the bullpen again, as Shane Ennis replaced Keller and induced a fly out and groundout around a hit by pitch to leave the bases loaded and keep the Mountaineers within four runs. To that point, Texas Tech was 7-of-10 with runners on base and 6-of-8 with them in scoring position, a stark contrast to the 0-for-12 effort in Friday’s second series game.

Damron continued to roll in the bottom half, retiring the Mountaineers in order to set down six consecutive in the fourth and fifth innings. The Raiders added two more runs in the top of the sixth, and the rout was on. West Virginia had Brad Johnson on third with no outs in the bottom half, but couldn’t score the leftfielder. WVU also loaded the bases with one out for Huth in the eighth inning, but the centerfielder hit into a 4-6-3 double play. The win clinched at least a share of fourth place for Texas Tech, marking the first time since 2001-02 that the Raiders (30-21, 13-10) have finished in the league’s top four in consecutive seasons.

West Virginia drew 1,697 in attendance today, making the 18-game total 33,158. The Mountaineers went 8-10 in those games and 12-10 in “home” games overall counting those played earlier in the season in Washington, Pa. WVU trails the all-time series with Texas Tech 5-4, but has won three of its last four Big 12 games.

The Big 12 Tournament seedings will be announced Sunday evening. No. 3 TCU has secured the regular season title and top seed, while Oklahoma State is second. The remainder of the conference schedule will be played later today and on Sunday.

“The fact that we have beaten every team in the league other than TCU gives us a lot of confidence going into it, because we know we can beat everybody, and it’s hard for one team to beat another four times,” Mazey said. “I like our chances. We have just enough pitching if we pitch well to get through this thing. And obviously we are capable offensively if we play like we did this weekend. We snuck our way into this tournament by having a great weekend and we can get our way through this thing by having another.”

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