MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The transfer portal gives and the transfer portal takes away, but on Sunday, WVU was rather thankful for its offseason additions from Division I.
A four-RBI day from Dayne Leonard and a career-long outing from reliever Trey Braithwaite lifted the Mountaineers to an 8-6 win over Texas in the series finale, overcoming an early three-run deficit and a tough Saturday.
“This was transfer portal university today,” said WVU skipper Randy Mazey. “We started [righty Zach] Bravo, brought [reliever] Chase [Smith] in, brought Trey in and Dayne was the hero so the four guys we got out of the portal all had a big impact in the game today.”
Mazey’s club rallies for a big Sunday win over Texas – The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast
Leonard’s heroics became necessary early in the game as Bravo gave up a trio of runs to start the day. His start was hampered when he took a line drive to his throwing hand and was pulled after a third of an inning.
The first run came off the bat of Ivan Melendez, who started his Sunday with an RBI double after a massive Saturday. That upped his weekend total to seven RBIs, but it was his only hit of the day.
Chase Smith relieved Bravo, who was later seen in the dugout with his right hand in a wrap, and gave the Mountaineers a career-high 63 pitches after entering a game for the first time in his college career. He gave up two more runs on five hits.
“He was on a pitch count, it was about 400,” Mazey said. “He was going to stay out there, same as Braithwaite, they were going to stay out there until they were out of gas.”
WVU tied the game at three runs in the second after a pair of extra-base hits from the bottom of the lineup. Grant Hussey put the first Mountaineer scores on the board with a two-RBI double to right field, then he was hit home by a triple from Tevin Tucker.
Douglas Hodo III put the Longhorns back in front with a two-RBI single in the third, but Hussey wasn’t done, as he scored Leonard with a double of his own in the fourth.
WVU snatched the momentum in the sixth inning as they started to get an edge on the Longhorn bullpen. A single by McGwire Holbrook opened the frame with a single before Texas pitcher Tristan Stevens hit Braden Barry with a pitch. Mazey made a gutsy managerial call by pinch-hitting Ben Abernathy. The substitute bunted and reached for a single to load the bases.
Three pitches later, Leonard cleared the bases with a double, putting WVU up by a pair of runs.
“I always try to simplify it, see the ball and hit the ball, not try to get too caught up in what they’re trying to do to me for the most part, but yeah the first two were running in on me,” Leonard said. “I think the third one came back in on me, to be honest, I kind of just blacked out and let everything else take over.”
Leonard added his fourth RBI in the eighth inning with a single, scoring Abernathy once again to close out WVU’s day on offense.
Meanwhile, Braithwaite was putting on a career performance for the Mountaineers out of the bullpen. He worked for 4.1 frames and threw 85 pitches, giving up just one run on two hits with four strikeouts.
“I think the last time I went that long was in high school, to be honest,” Braithwaite said.
The Longhorns did manage to salvage a run in the top of the ninth, scoring on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice for Braithwaite’s only allowed score of the day, but it was too little, too late as Noah Short came in on short notice to close out the final inning.
Braithwaite (3-0) earned the win and Short earned his second save of the season, while Stevens (5-6) took the loss for Texas.
Leonard was one of four Mountaineers, along with Holbrook, Hussey and Abernathy, to log a pair of hits on the day. Abernathy accomplished the feat in just two at-bats, knocking his first extra-base hit of the season.
Hussey also added a trio of RBIs to get his season total to 30, jumping JJ Wetherholt for the third spot on the team in that column. He also had a no-out sacrifice bunt to advance a runner — a unique situation for the power-hitting freshman.
“I think it’s pretty obvious how we responded, especially when [the Longhorns] throw up three in the first inning,” Mazey said. “An average team, or a team without leadership would just roll over right there and be like, ‘Oh here we go again,’ but we find a way. We kept scratching and clawing, so many guys had so many great games. There was a ton of heroes today in the gold jerseys.”
Dylan Campbell led the game with three hits for the Longhorns, knocking in runs in the first and the ninth. Hodo III and Messinger each had a pair of hits to add to the Longhorn total of 10 for the game.
Still, the Longhorns take the series after topping WVU in both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader. They improve to 34-17 overall and 11-10 in the Big 12.
With its win in the series finale, however, West Virginia remains a half-game ahead of Texas with a 10-8 mark, while improving to 28-18 on the season.
WVU stays at home to complete its five-game homestand when it hosts Pitt on Tuesday for the Backyard Brawl season series rubber match. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. ET and it will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.