GRANVILLE — Words may be insufficient to capture the level of pitcher Alek Manoah’s dominance against No. 15 Texas Tech at Mon County Ballpark on Friday night.
To find the proper context, Mountaineers coach Randy Mazey used a football analogy, comparing it to WVU quarterback Geno Smith’s 2012 performance against Baylor. Smith was 45 of 51 for 656 yards in that game.
“I can’t imagine he would pitch better,” Mazey said. “I remember the coaches saying about Geno, could you do better than that? The way Manoah pitched tonight, I don’t know how he could have done better. There’s nothing he did and say ‘Man, I wish he’d have done that.’ He was just on-point with every single thing we were doing.”
There are plenty of numbers to prove Mazey’s thesis.
There’s the zero Manoah hung on the Red Raiders in West Virginia’s 2-0 win, which marked the first time in 70 games that the heavy-hitting Texas Tech lineup has been shut out.
Manoah did so on the strength of 15 strikeouts, the most by a Mountaineer pitcher since David Maust struck out the same number against Cleveland State on March 11, 2001. Those Vikings were hardly at the level of the Red Raiders (22-10, 5-5 Big 12), who reached last year’s College World Series.
He allowed four hits — three of which didn’t get out of the infield.
Despite firing a fastball that at times hit 98 mph, Manoah didn’t issue a walk. The number that best captures his pinpoint accuracy on Friday night is 103 – the number of Manoah’s 125 pitches that were strikes over the course of his first career complete game.
“I felt really good all day,” Manoah said. “I felt really good in the bullpen. The vibes in the locker room were great. There was no reason to come out not feeling good. I felt I set the pace from the first inning. We just steamrolled them over.”
One does not simply steamroll over the Red Raiders, who lead the Big 12 in slugging percentage and are second in on-base percentage and home runs. Against Manoah, Texas Tech was unable to hit a ball out of the infield until Brian Klein flew out to center for the final out of the seventh inning.
Manoah (5-2) retired the first nine men he faced, striking out five of the first six. Texas Tech’s first hit was initially ruled an error on shortstop Tevin Tucker, who attempted bare-handing Gabe Holt’s grounder to lead off the fourth. It was changed to an infield single.
Holt managed the second hit off Manoah in the sixth, squibbing one between the pitcher’s mound and first base, where he reached safely only because Manoah went for the ball rather than heading to the bag to cover.
It wasn’t until the eighth that the Red Raiders threatened as Cameron Warren led off the inning with a double to the centerfield wall. Manoah responded by striking out the next three batters in order, with his fastball still topping off at 97 according to the WVU radar gun.
“I didn’t even know what I was throwing. I was just feeling good throwing it,” Manoah said. “I get better as the game goes on. I get more warmed up. I felt really good.”
Manoah came out in the ninth gunning for his first complete game.
There was major discontent in the stands as Mazey made his way to the mound with one out and a runner on first, but he had no intention of removing Manoah. The chat was a strategy session for handling Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung, a unanimous first team all-American.
“Taking him out of the game wasn’t even a thought,” Mazey said. “I just wanted to talk to him about how to pitch one of the best hitters in the United States.”
Jung fouled off two pitches before Manoah got him for strikeout No. 15.
West Virginia (21-12, 5-5) provided all the offense Manoah needed in the first inning when Marques Inman singled home Darius Hill. Hill scored the only other run of the game in the third, coming home on Paul McIntosh’s single right up the middle.