GRANVILLE — Another missed opportunity struck a major blow to the WVU baseball team Sunday, costing the Mountaineers the chance to take a crucial series against Oklahoma State.
Tied, 4-4, in the seventh inning, at Monongalia County Ballpark, Mountaineers catcher Chase Illig had a sinking fastball from pitcher Jackson Wolf slip past him as OSU center fielder Trevor Boone bolted home for the go-ahead score.
Two pitches later, another pitch got past Illig for a 6-4 Cowboys lead, a score that would hold the rest of the way.
“Jackson Wolf can really sink his fastball, and he was doing it,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said after the loss. “It’s just one of those things — I don’t think there were any cross-ups there, we just didn’t catch the ball.”
It’s been little things like that that have prevented the Mountaineers from taking off this season.
For the second consecutive day, WVU (16-17, 2-7 Big 12) took an early lead, scoring two runs in the second inning, another in the third and one in the fifth. On Saturday, they scored 10 runs, including a six-run first inning.
WVU pounded out 11 hits on Sunday, which is a welcome sign for Mazey.
“With the way we hit, we’re on a pretty good roll offensively,” he said. “I think we got double-digit hits in all three of the games, so we’re swinging it pretty well right now.”
The problem recently, though, has been pitching — whether it’s starters or the bullpen. WVU starter Braden Zarbnisky went six innings, but a three-run sixth cost him the win.
OSU catcher Colin Simpson hit a double to score Matt Kroon to make it 4-2, then first baseman Christian Funk smacked a two-run home run to the opposite way over the left field wall to tie it.
The wind was consistently blowing out to left field, and the Cowboys (10-13-1, 9-3 Big 12) took two out that direction — Simpson homered off the left field foul pole in the fourth inning for his Big 12-leading 11th of the season.
“That was pretty much all I had today on the mound,” Zarbnisky said about his sixth inning. “Toward the end, I could tell it was starting to drop. I gave it all I had every pitch trying to get everybody out.”
Wolf received the loss after walking the leadoff hitter in the seventh, which eventually came around to score on a passed ball.
“We walked five and they walked one, and that could possibly be the difference in the game,” Mazey said. “We walked a guy early in the seventh and that usually comes back to bite you. If you’re a relief pitcher, you’ve got to throw strikes right out of the gate, and if you don’t do that, you’re gonna get hurt.”
While it was windy and cloudy at Mon County Ballpark, the temperature remained in the high 70s. When WVU travels to Pitt on Tuesday, the forecast is calling for temps in the low 40s with a chance of snow in the morning. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
“The mind set is always the same when we play Pitt — doesn’t matter if we’re 34-0 or 0-34,” Mazey said. “We always manage to play pretty well up there, I think our guys get pretty locked in for that game. It’s going to come down to how well we pitch because it’s a pretty offensive place and I think it’s supposed to get cold from what I understand.
“It’ll be a huge game for us to get back to .500.”
The Mountaineers beat Pitt in the first game of the Backyard Brawl last Wednesday, 12-1, at Mon County Ballpark.