OKLAHOMA CITY — It probably wasn’t exactly the birthday gift coach Randy Mazey wanted.
With his birthday taking place May 23, the WVU coach asked for a win in the Big 12 baseball championship, against Oklahoma State. But there was no way he could have wished for what he saw.
In a game that lasted almost four hours, the Mountaineers and Cowboys combined for nine errors, 12 pitchers used, four hit batters and three balks.
But in the end, Mazey got what he wanted as WVU prevailed, 8-5, to survive the first round of the conference tourney.
“That was about four hours that shaved about four years off my life right there,” Mazey said. “It’s just pressure packed this time of the year. A game like this, you just have to play good the whole way through. Even if you don’t play good at the beginning, you have to play good at the end.”
Despite some sloppy play, the night was not without its dramatics.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, WVU’s Braden Zarbnisky was brought in from the outfield to close the game out. However, he walked the leadoff batter. Two batters later, the junior gave up a single to bring the tying run to the plate.
After Zarbnisky was called for a balk, he then issued a walk to load the bases with two outs. The Mountaineers were on the verge of having one of their ugliest defeats of the season.
But Zarbnisky came through in the clutch and got Michael Neustifter to ground out and end the game.
“The biggest fear is letting the tying and winning run come to the plate in the bottom of the ninth,” Mazey said. “But you saw it coming with the way the last three innings were going. But these guys stepped up and got a big win for us.”
Besides picking up the save for WVU (28-25), Zarbnisky finished the day going 2-for-3 at the plate, with two runs scored. Brandon White collected three hits and Darius Hill had a pair of RBIs.
B.J. Myers picked up the win, after going three innings and allowing three hits and no earned runs.
The win keeps WVU in the winner’s bracket where it will face the winner of No. 6 TCU and No. 3 Texas Tech at 8:30 p.m. today, at the Bricktown Ball Park.
For WVU, the model it needed to follow had been set earlier. In the first two games of the day, the lower seed prevailed. That included No. 8 seed Kansas upsetting top-seed Texas, 3-2. Also, Baylor beat Oklahoma, 4-0.
Peyton Battenfield got off to a rocky start on the mound for Oklahoma State (29-23-1). After a single to Zarbnisky to start the game, White doubled to center field. Hill singled to left and WVU had runners at first and third and only one out on the board.
However, the Mountaineers were unable to take advantage. Marques Inman struck out and White was thrown out trying to take home on a double-steal attempt.
Myers was just as erratic for WVU in the bottom half of the first inning. He allowed a couple of hits to the Cowboys, but was able to pitch his way out of trouble and end the inning without allowing a run.
The Mountaineers threatened again in the second inning, when they had runners on second and third and no outs. Ivan Gonzalez singled to right field to knock in a pair of runs.
That was enough for Battenfield. He was replaced by left-hander Brady Basso. That didn’t stop Jimmy Galusky from collecting a RBI single to extend the lead to 3-0.
In the top of the fourth, the Mountaineers loaded the bases and Hill singled into the gap to bring home a run. A throwing error by Neustifter allowed two more runs to come home and give WVU a 6-0 advantage.
“We started off with guys getting on base and doing their job,” Hill said.
Taking advantage of WVU errors, Oklahoma State grinded its way back into the game and cut the deficit to 7-5.
In the top of the eighth, Galusky scored from third base on a wild pitch to calm the waters and give WVU a three-run advantage.
“You play a game like that, as ugly as it is, when the game gets in the last couple of innings, the best players have to step up,” Mazey said. “And that’s what these guys did.”