Baseball, Sports, WVU Sports

Brandon White makes ‘ridiculous’ grabs as Mountaineers trip top-seeded Texas Tech

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Brandon White leapt, lunged and galloped, turning center field at Bricktown Ballpark into his personal highlight canvas.

After making two highlight catches that preserved the lead in a tight game, White knocked in an insurance run as No. 19 West Virginia pulled away from No. 10 Texas Tech 5-1 in the Big 12 tournament Thursday night.

Ace right-hander Alek Manoah, engaged in a pitcher’s duel with Caleb Kilian, sure appreciated White’s defense — promising to reward his center fielder with a steak after the Mountaineers (36-18) moved within a game of the championship round.

Trailing 2-1 in the sixth, Texas Tech (37-16) had the tying run at third base when Kurt Wilson smacked a drive to straightaway center. White turned and sprinted before diving horizontally to make an over-the-shoulder catch.

White didn’t pretend he had it all the way.

“Nah, not really. I got a good jump and just hoped for the best,” he said.

Manoah didn’t have a good feeling when the ball left Wilson’s bat.

“I saw B-White put his head down, and he usually does that when he has to take off and it’s way over his head. So I was like ‘Damn.’ But then I saw him pick up his head back up and catch it. I was like no way.”

With a runner aboard in the seventh, White delivered another gem by attacking Gabe Holt’s sinking liner with a tumbling grab.

“The catches he makes in centerfield are ridiculous,” West Virginia coach Randy Mazey said.

Before making hay with his glove, White delivered with his arm. When catcher Ivan Gonzalez overthrew second base on a steal attempt, the centerfielder charged the ball and threw a one-hopper that nabbed Cody Masters trying to take third.

Manoah (9-3) pitched four-hit ball over eight innings, striking out 10 to beat the Red Raiders for the second time this season.

“To put up double-digit strikeouts against a team like that is hard,” Manoah said. “They’re great hitters.”

The projected first-round draft pick used more changeups this time around.

“When a team wants a piece of you, they’re going to come out swinging,” Manoah said. “So you just let them swing at air with a few changeups.”

Kilian (8-3) allowed just two hits and struck out nine over seven innings.

“I thought Alek Manoah was really good. He kept us off-balanced, and mixed when he needed to,” Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “I thought our guy Caleb was equally as good and threw the ball awful well.”

While the Red Raiders must face Kansas in an elimination game Friday, the Mountaineers will enjoy the day off.

Hit batters factored into early runs for both teams.

Texas Tech’s Holt was hit by a pitch leading off the third inning. After Dylan Neuse doubled, Brian Klein’s fly-out to medium-depth centerfield made it 1-0.

West Virginia countered in the fourth after Kilian hit Brandon White. Darius Hill followed with a game-tying triple that glanced off left fielder Kurt Wilson’s glove on the warning track. Marques Inman gave WVU a 2-1 lead by sending the next pitch into center for a sac-fly.

Tevin Tucker’s errant throw wound up in the West Virginia dugout, giving Texas Tech s runner at second to open the fifth. But the shortstop made amends by spearing Neuse’s liner and flipping to second baseman Tyler Doanes for a bang-bang double play that replay confirmed.

Tucker’s sac-fly in the eighth — after Texas Tech reliever Floyd Taylor yielded singles to Kevin Brophy and TJ Lake — made for a 3-1 cushion. White tacked on a run by dumping a soft single into right-center.

“Congratulations to West Virginia. They earned the right to win,” Tadlock said. “Hopefully we get to see them again.”

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