From Staff Reports
Down 5-0 after committing five errors and allowing as many unearned runs, the West Virginia University baseball team appeared to be on the verge of the ending of a remarkable season.
Apparently that wasn’t the way the fairy tale was supposed to end.
The Mountaineers scored five runs in the sixth inning to tie the game and then won in walk-off fashion in the 10th, claiming a 6-5 victory against Big 12 regular season champion Oklahoma State at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
The win kept the dream of a Big 12 title alive for WVU, a unanimous pick by the league’s coaches in the preseason to finish last, and kept the season alive for at least a few more hours.
The Mountaineers needed a TCU win over Kansas in the nightcap to punch their ticket to the title game against Oklahoma. The result of that contest was unavailable at press time.
If WVU’s season did end on Saturday, it certainly came to an exciting conclusion.
Following a leadoff single by Bobby Boyd in the bottom of the 10th, Billy Fleming advanced Boyd on a sacrifice bunt. The sacrifice set the stage for Oklahoma native Jacob Rice, who singled home the speedy Boyd with the game-winning run on an bang-bang play at the plate.
It was an unlikely ending to a game that was all OSU’s in the early going.
Left-hander John Means, who got the start for the Mountaineers, looked as though he was going to put the Cowboys down in order in the top of the first, but a throwing error by shortstop Michael Constantini allowed Tanner Krietemeier to reach base. The following batter, Randy McCurry, made the Mountaineers pay for their mistake, as he launched a 0-2 pitch into the left field stands for a two-run homer — his third of the season.
OSU tacked on its third run of the game in the fourth inning, when Aaron Cornell scored on a throwing error by third baseman Ryan Tuntland. Cornell reached base via a double that nearly missed being a home run, as it deflected off the outfield wall. Cornell then advanced to third on a wild pitch.
In the sixth inning, OSU struck again and stretched its lead to 5-0. Cornell jump-started the inning with a single to left field, which was followed by a catcher’s interference call on Alan Filauro. After a single by Zach Fish that loaded the bases, Filauro committed a throwing error that allowed Cornell to score and Robbie Rea to advance to third. Then, Victor Romero drove Rea home on a sacrifice fly to left field.
The Cowboys’ run support allowed starter Mark Robinette to settle into an early groove. After allowing a triple to the leadoff hitter, Boyd, on the second pitch of the game, the junior right-hander sat down 13 consecutive Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers finally broke through in their half of the sixth inning, as they ended Robinette’s streak and tagged the Cowboys’ starter for five runs.
A single by Tuntland scored Constantini and Rice to make it 5-2. After a mound visit to Robinette by OSU manager Josh Holliday, Ryan McBroom hammered the first pitch he saw for a two-run home run that sailed over the left field wall and out of the ballpark. With the deficit cut to 5-4, Brady Wilson stepped to the plate. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Wilson turned on a fastball and hit his third home run of the season.
The Mountaineers avoided key threats from OSU in the fifth and eighth innings, as they twice escaped bases-loaded situations. In the fifth, Means induced a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat, while reliever Corey Walter escaped the eighth inning with a 4-6-3 double play.
WVU squandered a chance to end the contest in the ninth inning, as McBroom led off with a double, but a fly ball out sandwiched between strikeouts ended the threat.
Means pitched six innings and allowed five runs — all unearned — on six hits.
Walter, who pitched four innings of scoreless relief, got the victory for WVU and evened his record at 5-5.
Cowboys’ reliever Brendan McCurry was tagged with the loss — his third of the season.
The Big 12 championship, with or without the Mountaineers, will be played today at 2 p.m. at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.