A win is a win for West Virginia — even if you’re just walking across home plate.
The eighth-seeded Mountaineers earned their first win of the 2021 postseason over No. 9 Kansas with a walk-off walk by Victor Scott, capping off a back-and-forth 8-7 thriller at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City on Thursday.
“On the scale of walk-off excitement, a walk is one of the lowest,” said WVU skipper Randy Mazey. “But that doesn’t change the fact that that was a really good win for us.”
The Mountaineers got in that position by earning three free bases off Kansas pitchers Daniel Hegarty and Jonah Ulane, with the bullpen duo hitting one batsmen and walking the next two to load the bases. Scott then stepped up and faced Ulane for nine pitches — ultimately taking the one-out walk on a high fastball for the victory.
That conclusion was far from foregone in the early innings, however. Kansas put its first run on the board with an RBI double from Tavian Josenberger off WVU starter Carlson Reed.
Reed would allow five runs (four earned) off five hits before he was pulled after 1.1 innings for Ben Hampton.
Now down five, the Mountaineers started swinging the momentum pendulum towards their own dugout with a solo home run from Alec Burns in the bottom of the second. That set up a five-run swing to tie the game, four of which came in the bottom of the fourth.
By the fifth, WVU had taken the lead on an RBI grounder from Hudson Byorick, scoring Nathan Blasick.
“As soon as we started getting hits, Burns hit the homer, and it’s like, alright let’s go. We’re settled in, let’s move on from here and keep swinging it well,” said WVU shortstop Kevin Brophy.
Kansas took the lead right back in the sixth with a pair of RBI hits from Josenberger and Ahuna, marking the only runs allowed by Hampton on the night.
The Mountaineers needed some clutch in crunch time, and they got it from Burns and Brophy. Burns started the offense off with a single off Ryan Cyr, before he was taken off for the pinch runner Braden Barry. Brophy was next and knocked a double into left field — but a defensive miscue by the Jayhawks allowed Barry to make his way all the way around the bases from first to tie the game up.
Jacob Watters (4-1) then took the mound for West Virginia in the top of the ninth, forcing a 1-2-3 inning, and setting up the deciding bottom of the ninth to take the win for WVU.
The Mountaineers got significant production out of the top and bottom of their order. Austin Davis, the leadoff man, went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a walk, while Matt McCormick added a 2-for-5 night with a pair of RBIs in the two-hole. Brophy logged a single to go along with his eighth-inning double, while Tyler Doanes hit 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Ahuna was Kansas’s offensive star, hitting 4-for-5 while with four RBI, two triples and a home run, crossing the plate three times ion the night. Josenberger had a three-hit, two-RBI night for KU, while Tom Lichty added a trio of hits and a double.
The Mountaineers will next face Texas, the top seed in the tournament and the No. 2 team in the country, to open the tournament’s double-elimination competition. With a lot of baseball to be played in the coming days, Randy Mazey was keeping an eye on the load management for his pitchers. After game one in Oklahoma City, he feels his team is in good shape, having used only three arms out of the bullpen.
“We’ve got Jackson Wolf going, and Jackson, he’s capable of going out there and throwing 130 pitches, he’s done that before, so if he’s pitching well and doing his thing, then this would be a really big game for him to go deep in the game because all the relievers that threw today, if they get a day of rest tomorrow, then they’ll be ready to go on Thursday,” Mazey said.
First pitch between the No. 8 Mountaineers and the No. 2 Longhorns is set for 5 p.m. ET on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.