Baseball, Featured, Sports, WVU Sports

West Virginia strikes fast, hangs on to beat Kansas 12-8 in Big 12 tournament


OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.   Paul McIntosh drove in three runs on a triple to the wall in right-center. Brandon White scored two with a bunt that rolled 89 feet.

That was the long and short of it Wednesday morning as No. 19 West Virginia pounded out 17 hits to beat Kansas 12-8 in the opening game of the Big 12 tournament.

McIntosh and White each finished with four RBIs, while Marques Inman and Ivan Gonzalez drove in two runs each. Even No. 9 hitter Tevin Tucker had two hits to lift his average above .200 for the first time in five weeks. The offensive detonation proved crucial as the fourth-seeded Mountaineers (35-18) nearly blew an eight-run lead when Nick Snyder struggled through an atypical rocky start.

“Mountaineers win — that’s what counts,” said coach Randy Mazey, whose program has won five straight games as it seeks to host an NCAA regional.

“The game got kinda got hairy in the middle. We go up 9-1 and we’ve got our guy on the mound that gives up less than two runs per game. You feel pretty good, but that’s why Kansas won eight out of their last 10 in the league. That’s a dangerous team.”

Fifth-seeded Kansas (31-25), only three days removed from Sunday’s rivalry doubleheader against K-State, tried a bullpen-style approach that didn’t pan out.

West Virginia’s first six batters reached against Nathan Barry (5-1), jumpstarted by Tyler Doanes’ leadoff double. Singles by White and Darius Hill preceded McIntosh shooting a ball into the gap for his first triple this season.

Gonzalez followed with an RBI single for a 5-1 edge. After TJ Lake added a single, the onslaught could have been worse if not for Gonzalez being hung up on Tucker’s safety squeeze.

In his lone inning of work, Barry yielded five earned runs on six hits, hiking his ERA from 2.86 to 4.04.

“The guy has been fabulous for us out of the bullpen this year,” said Jayhawks coach Ritch Price. “But he couldn’t command his fastball in that first inning. Every time he was behind in the count, West Virginia knocked him around as hard as he’s been hit all year.”

The Mountaineers stretched the lead to 8-1 in the second inning against Ryan Ralston, who gave up Inman’s two-run double and a Gonzalez sac-fly.

The cushion was 9-1 in the fourth when Snyder began to falter, allowing RBI doubles to Benjamin Sems and Jack Wagner. 

When Kansas struck for four more in the fifth, Snyder’s 102-pitch day was finished.

The 6-foot-7 left-hander — who entered with an 8-1 record and a 1.95 ERA — was lifted after 4 2/3 innings, giving up a season-worst seven earned runs on seven hits. Snyder fanned four and walked five, an upside-down ratio for the junior whose last three starts featured a 39-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“That’s the first time he’s looked like that in a long time,” Mazey said. “He wasn’t sharp.”

West Virginia regained some momentum in the seventh — ironically after Kansas turned to one of its weekend starters, Ryan Cyr. Darius Hill’s leadoff double preceded McIntosh’s sac-fly for a 10-7 edge.

The Jayhawks pulled within 10-8 in the seventh, the first earned run allowed by Zach Reid in 11 appearances dating back to March 19. 

Then came White’s two-run squeeze, a rarity set up by WVU having speed on the bases. With Tucker at third base and Tyler Doanes on second, White pushed a bunt that hugged the first-base foul line. While Jayhawks infielder Nolan Metcalf hoped the ball would veer foul, Doanes churned around third base and beat the throw home.

“That’s a play we practice and you have to have the right personnel,” Mazey said. “That’s who we are — we run and we put pressure on the defense. And we really needed those two runs at that time.”

Gabe Kurtzhals (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Snyder. Dillon Meadows earned his second save with a hitless three innings.

West Virginia faces Texas Tech in a winner’s bracket game Thursday. Kansas meets K-State in an elimination game.