Randy Mazey’s squad needed 10 steals and 11 innings, but in the end, it evened the season’s Backyard Brawl series with Pitt.
The Mountaineers utilized their style of Mazey-ball in extra innings, bunting and stealing their way to the game-winning run in the 11th. Ultimately it was a Pitt miscue that put West Virginia in front, though, as second baseman Jeffrey Wehler missed a crucial throw to first base, allowing Tevin Tucker to score and give WVU the 3-2 victory.
Tucker led WVU’s small-ball offense with a hit, two steals and two runs, and was a key component of WVU’s ability to capitalize on Panther lapses throughout the game. He also added WVU’s first score in the third inning on a wild pitch after knocking a single.
Aidan Major got his first start of the season, tossing three innings of hitless, scoreless baseball with five strikeouts. Zach Ottinger took the mound in his place in the fourth inning after Major’s fourth walk of the game.
“Both our starters went out there and really pitched well, their guy was way better than what I was expecting….But we’re happy with [the start] we got out of Major, too,” Mazey said.
Pitt struck its first blow against Ottinger a frame later, as Tatem Levins knocked a single into left field. That tied the game up for the Panthers, sending Wehler home from second.
Grant Hussey and Dayne Leonard pulled off a double steal in the sixth inning — the first of two double steals by the Mountaineers — and managed a run as Pitt hurler Tyler Kennedy missed his mark, allowing Leonard home on a wild pitch. Again, the Panthers answered, as Dom Popa knocked an RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth.
The game remained scoreless for the rest of regulation, but neither team lacked scoring chances. WVU and Pitt combined to leave 10 runners on base in the last two innings, and each team left the bases loaded to end the ninth inning.
Ben Abernathy earned an unlikely hero role for West Virginia after he was subbed in as a pinch runner in the eighth inning. He went on to steal both second and third, but his performance wasn’t remarkable for his work on offense.
After logging two at-bats for WVU, Mazey put Abernathy on the mound as a reliever. He pitched both of the extra innings for the Mountaineers, slamming the door shut without allowing a run or a hit while striking two Panthers out.
WVU’s 10 steals is the second-best mark of the Mountaineers’ record-setting season, and brings their total to 125 for the campaign. Three different players — Tucker, Abernathy and JJ Wetherholt — grabbed two bags in the contest.
Tucker did get caught stealing once when he took a run at home plate in the fifth inning.
“There’s no place I can hide from our players when they get on base,” Mazey said. “They are looking for me constantly to give them the steal sign because that’s the way we play. That’s how we win, that’s how we lose.”
Pitt recorded just three hits in the game, two of which went for extra bases. WVU knocked seven, including a triple by Nathan Blasick and a double by McGwire Holbrook.
West Virginia remains unbeaten at PNC Park in four contests, including two wins over Pitt.
The season series between the two teams is now tied at one win apiece, while the all-time series now sits 111-93 in favor of the Mountaineers. The rubber match between WVU and Pitt is set for May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at West Virginia’s Monongalia County Ballpark.
“The Mountaineer fans get mad at me all the time when I say I actually want Pitt to be good, and they are good, and that makes me happy,” Mazey said. “Because it makes the rivalry better and stronger, and it makes the games better.”
Before that, though, WVU returns to its Big 12 slate with its toughest road opponent yet in No. 9 Texas Tech. First pitch in the three-game series is set for Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET in Lubbock, Texas.