The West Virginia University baseball team scored a pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning to earn a 3-2, come-from-behind win over No. 10 TCU on Friday night at Lupton Stadium.
Trailing by a run and down to their final strike in the squad’s Big 12 Conference opener, the Mountaineers (15-9, 1-0 Big 12) plated the tying run on a steal of home, before taking the lead with a second run after the ball got away from the catcher. It marked WVU’s fifth comeback win in the ninth inning or later this season.
Fifth-year senior right-handed pitcher Trey Braithwaite earned the win, the first of his Mountaineer career, while redshirt junior right-hander Noah Short tallied his first career save. TCU’s River Ridings took the loss.
“I told our guys that this is what you can expect in the Big 12,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “There were a lot of big moments for guys to be in tonight, and a lot of them stepped up in those moments. I’m super proud of them.”
TCU (18-8, 5-2 Big 12) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back, two-out hits. The hosts nearly doubled the score line in the frame, but the Mountaineer defense was able to get the third out on a play at the plate, as sophomore infielder Mikey Kluska fired a throw home to get a Horned Frog runner.
In the second, TCU threatened again, getting runners on the corners with two outs. But junior right-hander Jacob Watters got out of the jam with an inning-ending strikeout to keep the deficit at 1. It was just the beginning of a career night for the Mountaineer starter.
WVU put together its first scoring chance of the night in the fifth, thanks to a pair of two-out walks. However, a flyout spoiled the opportunity.
The Mountaineers were able to tie it in the sixth, due in large part to senior outfielder Austin Davis’ aggressive baserunning. After the Orlando, Florida, native singled up the middle, he stole second and third, before scoring on a wild pitch.
On the mound, Watters was electric, tossing a career-high 6.0 innings and matching his career best with eight strikeouts. The Rocky Gap, Virginia, native allowed just one run on four hits in a no decision. He fired a career-high 103 pitches.
Later, TCU took the lead again in the bottom of the seventh on a passed ball to make it 2-1.
After the Mountaineers went in order in the eighth, a wild, ninth inning commenced with WVU getting the go-ahead run to second base. Moments later, the visitors took the lead when sophomore utility player Ben Abernathy stole home and sophomore outfielder Braden Barry followed close behind after the ball got away.
In the bottom of the ninth, Short slammed the door, striking out three batters and getting out of a bases-loaded jam to end the game. With the win, WVU improved to 3-0 against ranked opponents this season.
“You play a lot of close games in this league, and you have to be able to win some of them,” Mazey said. “The way we did it tonight, that’s just really exciting.”
The Mountaineers finished with five hits in the victory, two off the bat of Barry. Of note, West Virginia did not record an RBI on any of its three runs.
Next up, the two teams meet in the middle game of this weekend’s three-game series on Saturday afternoon. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. ET.