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Morale boost: Darius Hill’s walkoff HR helps Mountaineers avoid sweep

GRANVILLE, W.Va. — After watching his ninth-inning drive hook foul outside the right-field pole, Darius Hill pounded his bat into the turf.

“I thought, man, that might have been the chance,” he said.

Four pitches later, Hill pounced on another chance.

The senior drilled a full-count slider from TCU closer Marcelo Perez over the wall in right-center — a two-run walkoff homer that gave West Virginia the 6-5 win and salvaged a sweet Sunday memory from an otherwise sour weekend.

“Avoiding that sweep was so crucial just for the course of our season and the morale of the team,” said Hill.

The senior rightfielder set a school mark by playing in his 220th career game, and none ended so unexpectedly as this.

West Virginia (28-17, 11-10) trailed 4-1 in the seventh inning and 5-3 in the ninth, and its struggling lineup featured 17 plate appearances by hitters batting .223 or worse.

One of those was Kevin Brophy, a .172 hitter who took Perez deep with one out in the ninth, closing the gap to 5-4.

Perez (3-2) looked headed for his sixth save when Brandon White hit a two-out grounder, but the Mountaineers’ fastest runner forced a high throw from TCU shortstop Adam Oviedo.

That brought up Hill, who was hitless in 12 straight at-bats since homering in the first inning of Friday’s opener.

During a seven-pitch at-bat, he saw two good sliders from Perez, but Hill said the 3-2 offering “was not as good. It stayed up.”

His fifth homer of the season was never in doubt. White flung his helmet into the air and joined the mob waiting at home plate for Hill, who was doused in ice.

TCU (26-20, 8-10) — having grown accustomed to sweeping the Mountaineers while winning 20 of the previous 25 meetings — settled for winning the series when its soft NCAA resume demanded more.

“Their RPI hasn’t been good, but you can see how good they are,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “They played almost flawlessly this weekend. That’s as good a team as there is on our schedule, but their RPI was in the 90s coming in. If you lose home games to teams with bad RPIs, you take a big hit.”

TCU’s Brandon Williamson gave up two earned runs in six-plus innings. He had a 4-1 cushion in the seventh when he gave up a single to Phillip Dull (hitting .220) and walked Andrew Zitel (.208).

Against Frogs reliever Jared Janczak, Tyle Doanes blooped an RBI double down the right-field line and White legged out an infield single to make it 4-3.

TCU padded its lead in the ninth against Sam Kessler thanks the game’s second homer by Jake Guenther, who has reached base in all 46 games this season.

Zach Reid (2-0) earnest the win by recording get final out on the top of the ninth.

Kade Strowd lasted 5 1/3 innings for West Virginia, giving up four runs on eight hits. He walked four and fanned six

Strowd’s one-out walk in the first led to a TCU run when Austin Henry singled and Johnny Rizer hit an RBI grounder.

Williamson’s two errant throws in the third inning — one on a pickoff attempt and the other on a sac bunt by Austin Davis — gave West Virginia a runners-on-the-corners threat. Though Doanes popped up his bunt attempt, WVU drew even on White’s groundout to third.

West Virginia remained fourth in the Big 12 standings, 3 1/2 games back of league leader Baylor. After a midweek game at Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers finish Big 12 action with a three-game series at Kansas State.