After dropping two games in the middle of the week to Canisius, West Virginia was in dire need of something special tonight against No. 16 Oklahoma State in the Mountaineers’ Big 12 home opener.
For most of the night, it looked like that would come via the right arm of Chad Donato, who spun an absolute gem through eight innings, during which he held Oklahoma State to one run on two hits.
But then the ninth inning happened.
With West Virginia leading 3-1 heading to the top the ninth, Donato started to reel a bit, hitting the first batter he faced and walking the second to put two men on with nobody out.
This brought head coach Randy Mazey out of the WVU dugout for a meeting on the mound. After a long talk, Mazey left Donato in the game, which turned out to be a mistake as OSU’s Garrett Benge appeared to save the day for the Cowboys with a two-out, three-run homer to put the ‘Pokes ahead 4-3.
Despite taking it on the chin in the top of the ninth, WVU came back with steel resolve in the bottom of the frame. Jimmy Galusky got things started with one out, dropping a high pop up just out of the reach of the second baseman and motoring to second base with a double after the ball was booted in the outfield.
Following Braden Zarbnisky’s strikeout and Kyle Davis’ walk, freshman Marques Inman was called on to pinch hit in a major spot.
The young first baseman stepped up in a big way, shooting a grounder through the right side and into right field, scoring Galusky and giving WVU new life.
"I was just trying to get the barrel of the bat on the ball and hit it as hard as I can wherever I can,” Inman said, “Honestly I didn’t know if it was going through or not because I didn’t know where they were playing me. Once I looked up and saw that the second baseman was playing me up the middle, I couldn’t have been happier.”
The Mountaineers were unable to push across the winning run in the ninth, but didn’t need too much more time to accomplish that feat.
Blake Smith came in and pitched a 1-2-3 top of the 10th for West Virginia, and the stage was set for the grand finale.
Jackson Cramer, who had homered to right field to put WVU ahead 2-1 in the sixth inning, made his night twice as nice with a walk-off blast to dead center field, setting off fireworks in the parking lot and a major celebration on the field as his teammates hurdled the dugout fence to mob him at home plate.
“This is the best I’ve seen the ball all season, so I’m just going to keep that same approach. It hasn’t failed me yet,” Cramer said.
“I was just trying to get on base. I got a nice pitch to hit, so I couldn’t pass that up, especially in extra innings.
Cramer and Inman’s heroics turned what could have been an emotionally flattening night into one that could be something WVU looks back on as a key moment in the year.
With the win, WVU evens its Big 12 record at 3-3 and moves to 13-10 overall. Oklahoma State took its first conference loss of the year and fell to 3-1 in the Big 12 and 18-8 overall. The Mountaineers and Cowboys will be back at it tomorrow with first pitch at 2 pm before wrapping up the series Sunday afternoon.