West Virginia was happy to return to Oklahoma City ahead of their 12-8 victory over Kansas in the first game of the 2019 Big 12 Baseball Tournament.
“We’ve always played pretty well here,” Mountaineers coach Randy Mazey said after the game.
“I shared with our guys last night the story of 2013. Of how we came here and helped out the tornado victims in Moore. None of the guys on the team were around for that,” he said. “I thought that was important for our guys to know how special a place this is for WVU baseball.”
Mazey’s message resonated with his Mountaineers as they leapt out to an early lead.
West Virginia took advantage of Kansas relief pitcher turned starter Nathan Barry, plating nine runs in the first three innings to lead 9-1.
“That’s Nathan Barry’s first start of the year. The guy’s been fabulous for us out in the bullpen,” Kansas coach Ritch Price said.
“He couldn’t command his fastball today. He didn’t get in position to use his off-speed pitch or his changeup, and every time he was behind in the count West Virginia knocked him around as hard as he’s been hit all year,” he said. “I compliment West Virginia on their discipline and being efficient in fastball counts.”
The Jayhawks pulled within two in the top of the fifth inning.
With two outs, Kansas third baseman Skyler Messinger hit a fly ball to shallow center field, forcing a diving play from Mountaineer outfielder Brandon White. Though ruled an out on the field, a coach’s challenge overturned the play after review showed White was unable to make the out before the ball bounced off the grass. As a result of the out being overturned, Kansas plated one run and continued their two-out rally.
In the ensuing at-bat, pinch hitter Tom Lichty drove two more runs home to bring the Jayhawks back into the game.
West Virginia was able to refocus, and tack on three more runs to close out the Jayhawks.
Mazey was pleased with his team’s response after giving up six runs between the fourth and fifth innings.
“I don’t say anything to these guys,” Mazey said. “One of our sayings is ‘Don’t Panic’. You can hear people in the dugout saying it all the time.”
“I trust our older guys to have a calming effect on everybody else. They’ve been doing it all season and today was no different,” he said.
West Virginia advances to play the winner of the Texas Tech-Kansas State game tomorrow at 4 p.m. Kansas will meet the loser of that game at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.