Kevin Kinder \ BlueGoldNews.com

West Virginia Cruises Past Oklahoma 11-1, Advances to Big 12 Championship

West Virginia only needed seven innings to dispatch of Oklahoma and the Mountaineers will advance to the Big 12 championship on Sunday with a chance to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Conner Dotson threw 6.1 innings and picked up nine strikeouts to lead West Virginia past Oklahoma, advancing the Mountaineers to their first conference championship game since 1996. The Mountaineers have shown off their pitching depth during the Big 12 tournament, as Ross Vance dominated Oklaoma on Wednesday and BJ Myers pitched well against Texas Tech on Thursday. Dotson also received excellent run support that allowed the Mountaineers to run rule the sooners after seven innings.

Oklahoma scored its first and only run of the game when Steele Walker hit an RBI single that made it past shortstop Jimmy Galusky in the bottom of the first inning. After that run, WVU quickly got to work and dominated in every phase of the game. The Mountaineers scored their first three runs in the top half of the second. Jackson Cramer led off the inning with a hit to right center field. Cramer's hit was followed by a Ray Guerrini double down the third base line. After Guerrini and Cramer led off the inning with a pair of hits, Cole Austin hit a deep sacrifice fly to right field that brought in the first run of the game. After the hit Cramer tagged up and beat a great throw by Oklahoma left fielder Alex Wise for a close play at the plate that tied the game at one a piece. A few batters later shortstop Jimmy Galusky was able to reach first base on an RBI fielders choice, which brought the Mountaineers back to the top of the order, and Kyle Davis ripped a double to left field, picking up the Mountaineers third and final run of the second inning.

The Sooners threatened to answer the Mountaineers big inning in the bottom of the second, loading the bases with two outs for outfielder Ben Hollas. Hollas crushed a ball to deep right field that came within a few feet of a grand slam, but Darius Hill was able to make the catch along the warning track, holding West Virginia's 3-1 lead. It looked as if Oklahoma starting pitcher Chris Andristas started to settle down as he retired five batters in a row through the third and fourth innings, but with two outs in the top of the fourth WVU got back to work. Jimmy Galusky reached base on a single and Kyle Davis blasted a home run to deep left field, giving him his second home run of the Big 12 tournament and his 12th home run of the year. After the two out blast, Darius HIll singled up the middle and stole second base. Ivan Vera came to the plate and hit a ball to third baseman Cade Harris, who committed a throwing error that allowed Vera to reach first safely and Hill to take home, extending the Mountaineer lead to 6-1 after four innings. 

In the top of the fifth inning, Oklahoma brought Alex Daniele to the mound in hopes of slowing down the Mountaineer offense, but Daniele walked Cole Austin and KC Huth before Kyle Gray laid down a perfect squeeze play that scored Austin and pushed the Mountaineers lead to 7-1. The Mountaineers bats were quiet through the sixth inning, but WVU exploded in the seventh and delivered a devastating knock out punch to the Sooners. After Jackson Cramer struck out to start the inning Ray Guerrini singled and Cole Austin doubled, putting runners at second and third with KC Huth coming to the plate. Huth hit a ball to shallow center field that brought home Guerrini. Kyle Gray came to the plate after Huth's RBI and hit a sacrafice fly for his second RBI of the game. Jimmy Galusky then came to the plate and hit another single and that set the stage for Kyle Davis to get another big hit. Davis hit a 2-1 pitch for a single that scored Huth and a throwing error allowed Jimmy Galusky to get all the way to home plate, making the Mountaineers lead 11-1 and giving them an opportunity to end the game if they could hold Oklahoma scoreless in the bottom of the seventh. Dotson got the first out of the seventh inning and senior Jackson Sigman picked up the final two outs that gave the Mountaineers the win due to the mercy rule after seven innings of play.

The win advances the Mountaineers to their first conference championship game since 1996, when they beat Notre Dame in the Big East tournament conference championship. WVU will play either Texas or TCU on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., and a win in that game would automatically qualify them for the NCAA tournament. After the game WVU head coach Randy Mazey praised Conner Dotson's performance.

"(Dotson's) best pitch is a fastball and when he has command of it he's pretty tough," Mazey said. "We knew that he was going to attack with his fast ball and he managed to maintain his velocity. He threw over 110 pitches and I don't know if he's ever done that."

Mazey also spoke about the Mountaineers offense and the run support they have been providing their pitchers with lately.

"I don't know who we're going to play tomorrow but they have got to be thinking that our lineup can't be too fun to pitch to, because we're getting production from every guy in the lineup," Mazey said.

Regardless of who WVU's opponent will be, Mazey knows the Mountaineers have a huge opportunity ahead of them and he couldn't be happier about the progress they have made.

"This is what coaching is all about," Mazey said. "This is as much fun as I have had coaching in my career. When we recruit kids to West Virginia we tell kids that we're going to compete for Big 12 championships and play against great programs like Texas and Oklahoma and TCU. It's really fun to think that this program has come this point this fast."


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