OKLAHOMA CITY — WVU head baseball coach Randy Mazey was all out of tricks.
With WVU playing its fourth game in four days, there wasn’t any magic bag he could pull from. If the Mountaineers were going to make it to the finals of the Big 12 Championships, they were going to have to do it on pure guts.
Facing TCU for the second time in the tournament, WVU showed the guts, but they just didn’t have enough left in the tank, as they fell, 7-3, in the semifinals at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
TCU advances to face Baylor for the Big 12 title, at 2 p.m. today.
Despite the defeat, Mazy liked what his team had showed during the tournament after a difficult regular season.
“It’s amazing; every year when we come down here, I think we show everybody that we’re just like everybody else,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “We’re very capable of beating every team, and we feel like we’re as good as anybody in this conference. You can go back and pick a game or two out of the season that could’ve gone either way, and all of a sudden, you’re sitting at 32-33 wins with an RPI, and you’re in the conversation of having a postseason. Just like every season that we don’t make it, we feel like we’ve been that close, and that’s the story of this season, too, just that close.”
Kyle Gray led off the second inning with a single and late scored on Jimmy Galusky’s sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.
WVU kept the pressure on in the third inning. The Mountaineers (29-27) loaded the bases and forced TCU to take starting pitcher Russell Smith out of the game after throwing 65 pitches. He was relieved by Charles King.
Ivan Gonzalez came to bat with a chance to give the Mountaineers some breathing room.
Gonzalez sent a bullet up the middle. But TCU second baseman Coby Boulware made a diving stop and threw out Gonzalez at first to prevent any runs from crossing the plate.
Kade Strowd was unhittable for WVU early in the day. The right-hander out of Fort Worth, Texas, had five strikeouts in the first three innings. The 95-degree heat didn’t seem to have any affect on him.
In the fourth inning, however, TCU started to get Strowd. They began the inning with consecutive hits. Two batters later, Strowd walked the bases loaded. He then walked Adam Oviedo and Sam Shepard to put TCU up, 2-1.
Strowd was relieved by Shane Ennis. Josh Watson still blasted a double to the fence and two more runs scored.
The already depleted bullpen took another hit when Ennis had to leave the game with an injury. Tristen Hudson took the ball and gave up another two-run double.
Even after Hudson was taken out, the hits kept coming for TCU. In all, they scored seven runs to take a 7-1 lead.
Mazey admitted he got away from his “spring training” strategy and may have left Strowd in too long.
“But when you’ve got three games in 24 hours,” Mazey said, “you can’t take guys out before they run out of gas.”
WVU didn’t fold after the big inning from TCU. Hill scored on a Tyler Doanes groundout to close the gap to 7-2.
Hill led off the seventh inning with a double off the fence. He scored on a Gray’s sacrifice fly. The deficit was down to four runs.
“Resiliency is the best word probably and coach Mazey uses it all the time,” Gray said. “We know that going into any game that whether we are down or up we just need a few hits to get right back into it.”
But that would be as close as WVU would get. The Horned Frogs shut them down the rest of the game to close out the Mountaineers tournament run.
Hill ended the day going 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Gray went 2-for-2 with an RBI and scored a run.
Strowd (4-7) took the loss and was credited with allowing five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.
“Our Achilles’ heel all season got us today with walks and putting up crooked numbers,” Mazey said. “They scored all seven in one inning, and you just can’t do that. I’m super proud of these guys the way they grinded it out at the end. What these guys have put on the field this year has been amazing.”