Ninth Inning Horned Frog Collapse Sparks WVU Win

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia didn't register a hit after the fourth inning but a ninth inning collapse by TCU's bullpen enabled the Mountaineers to win their fifth consecutive series.

Sunday afternoon's win over No.3 TCU (28-7, 9-3 Big 12) marks West Virginia's (21-13, 8-4 Big 12) fifth consecutive series win and fourth Big 12 series win in a row.

The beginning of the contest looked promising, especially offensively for the Mountaineers as Jackson Cramer hit a line drive single between first and second base that brought home leadoff man Kyle Gray in the bottom half of the first. TCU, however, had an answer. In the top of the second inning the Horned Frogs tied the game at one apiece when designated hitter Connor Wanhanen hit a blooper to shallow left field that scored Luken Baker. 

In the bottom half of the third West Virginia retook the lead when Cramer earned his second RBI of the day on a hard hit double off the left center wall. Just two batters later Kyle Davis blasted a double of his own that brought home Cramer and extended the Mountaineers lead to 3-1 heading to the fourth.

While it looked like the Mountaineers had successfully captured the game's momentum, the Horned Frogs answered with a big inning of their own in the top of the fourth. A pair of singles by Luken Baker and Josh Watson set the table for Nolan Brown, who crushed a ground rule double that brought home a run and moved Baker to third. A battler later a wild pitch from freshman Alek Manoah brought home the tying run and shortly thereafter Wanhanen hit a line drive that gave the Horned Frogs a 4-3 lead.

It looked like the Mountaineers were set recapture the lead once again in the fourth inning after Brandon White and Kyle Davis hit a pair of singles that put runners at the corners, but Braden Zarbnisky hit into a double play. It's worth noting that Davis's single was the last hit that West Virginia registered in the contest.

The next four innings featured solid innings by both pitching staffs. For the Mountaineers it was the trio of Zarbnisky, Sam Kessler and Jackson Sigman that finished strong. The Horned Frogs inserted relievers Ryan Burnett in the bottom of the sixth and Sean Wymer in the bottom of the seventh. In the bottom half of the ninth TCU put in Durbin Feltman to close out the game. Feltman, who had been very solid on the year, walked the bases loaded and walked Jackson Cramer to bring home the game's tying run.

The Horned Frogs then went to Cal Coughlin to get the game's final two outs with the bases loased. Coughlin struck out Cole Austin but walked Darius Hill, a devastating error that cost the Horned Frogs a loss in a game that they didn't allow a hit in the final five innings of play. With the win, West Virginia improved to 8-4 in Big 12 play and is now within one game of TCU (who holds first place in the league).

Making the win a little bit quirkier was the fact that West Virginia was playing with house money at the end. Due to TCU's traveling schedule, there were going to be no extra innings regardless of what transpired with Hill's at-bat. Hill, however, didn't realize that when he took a ball on a 3-1 pitch in the bottom of the ninth.

"I wouldn't say it was tough (to lay off swinging) but I had to remain focused," said Hill. "Sometimes you have to lay off in the big moments and he threw four (balls) so we won."

The Mountaineers will be back in action on Tuesday night when they travel to Charleston to take on Marshall. West Virginia took the first game between the two in-state opponents 14-7 two weeks ago.

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