GRANVILLE — When the book is finally closed on this WVU baseball season, the Mountaineers’ 7-4 loss April 13, against Oklahoma State, may not necessarily go down as a back-breaker.
“You don’t want [the players] thinking that way and I don’t think that’s the case, either,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said.
It was a game that may come with a few asterisks, though, as well as missed opportunities for some late-inning drama for WVU.
When it was all said and done, the only thing a Monongalia County Ballpark crowd of 2,085 missed out on was the cold weather that plagued the city in recent weeks.
“What do you all think happened?” was how Mazey began his explanation of an unusual play that not only took away a crucial base hit from Kyle Gray, but may have cost the Mountaineers (15-16, 1-6 Big 12) a much-needed conference win.
With WVU trailing, 7-4, in the seventh inning and Darius Hill on first base and two outs, Gray ripped a hit toward right field. The line drive landed in front of Hill at his feet, forcing him to dodge the ball before advancing to third base.
Confusion quickly followed, as first base umpire Shawn Arthur ruled the ball hit Hill in the foot — replays showed it clearly did not — which would have been the third out in the inning.
But second base umpire Bill McGuire had called a balk on Cowboys pitcher Brady Basso — a call that apparently only Gray heard.
“When I swung, I originally heard the guy call a balk,” said Gray, who finished with a solo home run, a double and two singles to raise his batting average to a team-leading .324. “I ran aboout halfway down the line and the [first base umpire] was calling Darius out, and I said, ‘Hold on, that guy called a balk.’ ”
According to Mazey, the Mountaineers had the choice of the play or the balk, but they couldn’t take the play, because it would have been the third out on Hill having been ruled hit by the batted ball.
So, Hill was awarded second base on the balk and a hit was taken away from Gray, who then had to go back to the plate.
Three pitches later, he grounded to short for the final out of the inning.
“I don’t know, it was just a bad break,” Mazey said. “Sometimes guys get more upset than they need to at the time. It’s a shame for Kyle Gray, because he would have finished with five hits on the day.”
Later, WVU missed out on a bases-loaded opportunity in the eighth inning and also had two runners reach base in the bottom of the ninth, but was unable to score in either situation.
In the eighth, Mazey pinch hit with 6-foot-6, 260-pound Alek Manoah, with the bases loaded and two outs, hoping for a big hit. Manoah is 1-for-12 on the season. He struck out.
“Playing for a home run right there,” Mazey said. “The chances of Brandon White [5-11, 160] hitting one out are way less than Manoah hitting one out, just because of the sheer size of [Manoah]. It didn’t work out. It was just one of those things.”
The series continues, at 4 p.m. today, with WVU expected to pitch sophomore Kade Strowd.
A third game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.