Zarbnisky, the designated hitter, tied the game in the fifth inning when he reached on a single back to the pitcher, then advanced to second on a throwing error. Trying to steal third, Zarbnisky was seemingly cut down when Texas Tech ace Steven Gingery tried a snap throw to third. But the ball sailed past the fielder, tying the game at 2-2 before WVU took a 3-2 lead on Cole Austin's RBI single later in the inning.
Nobody anticipated that was nearly enough, not against the Big 12's top offense in both run production and average. But head coach Randy Mazey handed Zarbnisky the ball in the sixth inning, and the right-hander shut out the Red Raiders over the next three frames, allowing just two hits while striking out three. None were bigger than his 8th inning two-on, two-out strikeout of Cody Farhat, who had repeatedly hurt the Mountaineers with timely hits in the series. This time, the centerfielder - who was 5-for-9 in the series entering the at-bat - was caught looking on a called third strike that squelched yet another Tech comeback bid.
"We needed a lift," head coach Randy Mazey said. "We needed a lift with some energy, with some offense. He gave us absolutely everything he had today."
Cody Wood pitched the ninth inning for West Virginia (27-19, 11-10), which held the top offense in the league to just seven runs in three games. Unfortunately, WVU's offense scored just six itself in three straight one-run decisions.
The Sunday win did allow West Virginia to slow a streak in which it has lost six of its last 10 games and dropped three consecutive series after winning its first five. The victory represents the ninth of the season in 15 games against a Top 25 foes for the Mountaineers, who badly needed to salvage the third game against Texas Tech (39-13, 13-8) entering winnable games against Penn State and Gardner-Webb.
"That was as good a weekend as we could have under the circumstances with the rain and the injuries," said Mazey, whose pitching depth has been hurt due to injuries to starters Connor Dotson and Michael Grove. "Cody Wood, he's the same guy who was out there against TCU a few weeks ago and couldn't throw a strike. This team is growing up, man, and it's playing with the best teams in the country."
Besides Zarbnisky, Kevin Brophy and Cole Austin also had multi-hit games to lead West Virginia after Mazey made a series of line-up changes. Brophy moved to third, taking Austin's spot, while Austin slid to short in place of Jimmy Galusky, who did not play. Brophy went 2-for-2 with two walks and an RBI while Austin had two singles and and the eventual deciding RBI.
What was remarkable was that WVU was able to hold the lead through the final four frames. Tech challenged in the 6th and 8th innings, putting two runners on with two outs each time before a caught stealing and the Zarbnisky strikeout ended the respective threats. That was in contrast to a 1-0 loss in the series opener in which the Mountaineers managed just two hits and moved a runner to third just once. In a 4-3 defeat on Saturday, WVU led 3-2 in the 8th inning, only to see Tech score one run in each of the final two frames to win.
"That might be the best team in the United States that we came in and played three one-run games with," Mazey said. "We won one and could have won more. Super proud. We went into this game with five pitchers available to pitch, and we pitched almost all of them, and they did great."
West Virginia once again led Texas Tech 3-2 through five innings after plating a pair of runs in a weird bottom of the fifth. Besides Zarbnisky advancing three bases to score on a pair of errant throws, Jackson Cramer drew a walk before Darius Hill reached on a one-out error by third baseman Josh Jung. After Cramer got thrown out on an ill-advised double steal, Brophy's walk put two on with two outs and ended the outing for Gingery, arguably the best pitcher in the Big 12. The sophomore entered with an 8-0 record and a 1.55 ERA and lasted the 4.2 innings, allowing six hits and three runs with five strikeouts and three walks in taking his first loss.
After Gingerly's exit, Austin promptly singled off Tech reliever Caleb Killian, scoring Hill with the winning run. Austin was then thrown out trying to advance to second on the play, meaning the Mountaineers made two outs in the inning on the base paths. WVU also missed other chances, including stranding three runners in the seventh inning when Austin flew out to center with the bases loaded - part of a whopping 10 runners left through seven frames.
Alek Manoah got the start and pitched 4.2 innings, giving way to Jackson Sigman for one out before Zarbnisky came on. Sigman (3-3) picked up the win with Wood recording his first save of the season.
Notes: WVU scored just three runs against Texas Tech through the first 21 innings of play in the series ... Cramer went 0-11 in series ... West Virginia is now 9-6 on the season against top-25 opponents, including a 3-3 mark at home ... The Mountaineers are 5-4 at home all-time versus Tech ... The Red Raiders had won five in a row and six of their last seven entering ... Texas Tech fell to 15-6 on the road this season ... West Virginia is 3-3 against the Big 12's top two teams in No. 4 Texas Tech and No. 6 TCU ... the Mountaineers are within two games of Tech for second place in the league standings.