The Mountaineers walked in a pair of runs, allowed another to score on an error and failed to recognize a double steal that cost yet another run. WVU also failed to hit, managing only three singles in a disastrous performance.
"I've never really heard of Canisius before, but we know who they are now," third baseman Kyle Davis said.
It wasn't just the overall lack of crispness, but the mental errors and inability to find the zone when needed that will be the trademark takeaway from this one. Starter Tanner Campbell, the Mountaineers' go-to pitcher for midweek games, gave up four runs, all earned, in 5.1 innings. The relievers were worse, the six of them allowing five runs - two on bases loaded walks - while also managing to start a five-run 8th inning with consecutive bases on balls. That was piled on by a throwing error on an ensuing sacrifice bunt, and at that point, down 5-0, the game was essentially over even with West Virginia having a pair of at-bats remaining.
"It was a letdown across the board," head coach Randy Mazey said. "When pitchers walk people the defense gets tired and they're primed for errors. Then the offense puts pressure on itself. If you don't pitch you don't win, and we sure didn't pitch the last two days."
The six relievers ended the combined 3.2 innings with five runs, two earned, with four walks. The fourth, a four-pitch issue with the bases loaded, caused the majority of the sparse crowd to simply walk out. Canisius, meanwhile, finished with 11 hits, methodically piling on runs with 10 singles and six walks. West Virginia had only the three hits and failed to move a runner to third in their worst offensive outing of the season.
"I don't know that I've ever been a part of something like that," Mazey said. "They were throwing pitchers who haven't pitched much for them and our at-bats were just awful. I don't understand it."
Darius Hill, Kyle Casserly and Ivan Vera had the hits for West Virginia. Vera was the designated hitter and Casserly entered and played right after pinch hitting, meaning the starting line-up went a combined 1-for-20 in the game. Three players had at least two hits for Canisius (11-13), led by Anthony Massicci's 3-for-3 performance with a solo home run and two walks.
Campbell (1-1) took the loss for West Virginia. Nolan Hunt pitched four shutout innings for his first win of the season, while three relievers combined to allow two hits and no runs over the final five frames. None of the six Mountaineer relievers completed a full inning. Jackson Sigman, who entered with a 0.00 ERA, gave up three runs in as many batters faced and walked in a run.
"You get into the season and you have to count on six or seven guys who can carry you through the toughest part of it," Mazey said. "I still feel good about our top guys, but these last two games we were looking for somebody else to help. You put somebody out there looking for guys to step up, and it just didn't happen."
West Virginia stayed in the game early, Canisius leading just 1-0 after the fourth inning on Massicci's solo home run to left field off Campbell. Massiccci pulled the 1-0 fastball well over the wall for his second homer of the season and just the fifth for the Griffins this season. But the Griffins soon blew the game open with a three-run sixth inning that included help from the Mountaineers.
After a pair of singles put runners at the corners, Campbell induced a fly out before giving up Liam Wilson's RBI single. Massiccci then struck again, laying a perfect bunt single down the third base line to load the bases. That signaled the end for Campbell, who remained responsible for all three runners on. Two of the three scored when WVU couldn't complete a double play, the rushed throw from second baseman Marques Inman pulling Jackson Cramer off the bag. The Griffins capitalized, pulling off a delayed double steal for the 4-0 lead when catcher Ray Guerrini threw late to second, easily allowing the runner in from third base.
The self-inflicted mistakes continued in the eighth inning, West Virginia loading the bases with two walks and a throwing error from Inman on a sacrafice bunt. Christ Conley's RBI single made it 5-0 and a pir of bases load walks finished any chance of a comeback.
Perhaps the most striking - not, rather, not - aspect was the control issue. Of the two walks, WVU's Jacob Brewer threw eight balls while finding the zone just once. He then compounded it by working the count full with two outs which allowed the runners to go on the pitch, turning a single into the final two runs for Canisius. In all, the Mountaineer relievers threw 46 strikes in 88 pitches, a paltry rate of 52.7 percent.
West Virginia (12-10) has lost six of its last eight games and now faces No. 16 Oklahoma State to open the Big 12 home schedule. The Cowboys (18-7, 3-0 Big 12) lead the conference in ERA at 2.24, but are last with a .247 team batting average. OSU beat No. 15 Arkansas on Tuesday for their fifth straight win.
"We've got a really good team coming in in Oklahoma State, so we have to just brush it off," Davis said.