LEXINGTON, Ky. – West Virginia’s losing streak reached six games on Friday as the Mountaineers fell 12-6 to the Indiana Hoosiers in their first game at the Lexington Regional inside Kentucky Proud Park.
“We’ve played good baseball for a long time for two straight years and we picked a bad time to break out a bad game,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “We just didn’t play well.”
The first inning, a sticking point during WVU’s (39-19) skid, went the Mountaineers’ way as starting pitcher Blaine Traxel tossed a scoreless top half and left fielder Landon Wallace hit an opposite-field home run in the bottom for a 1-0 early advantage.
The strong start did not last long, however, as a throwing error by shortstop Tevin Tucker contributed to the Hoosiers (42-18) loading the bases with no outs in the top of the second. Traxel, pitching for the first time in two weeks, tried to escape the jam by striking out the next two batters, but Phillips Glasser’s single up the middle plated two and gave Indiana a 2-1 lead.
“I was fighting through it and made one bad pitch and the guy made me pay for it,” Traxel said. “That’s baseball, that’s how it works.”
IU’s lead became 3-1 in the top of the third when Bobby Whalen hit a lead-off double and later scored on a wild pitch, but the Mountaineers came back to tie things up in the bottom of the frame.
Dayne Leonard hit a lead-off single and Indiana starter Luke Sinnard was removed from the game in the next at-bat due to apparent elbow discomfort. Reliever Brayden Risedorph hit Logan Suave and eventually JJ Wetherholt to load the bases with one out.
Wallace drew a bases-loaded walk and Caleb McNeely’s sacrifice fly to right field knotted the game at 3-3.
The Mountaineers pulled ahead in the bottom of the fourth with some classic Mazey-ball. Indiana was threatening to strand Braden Barry’s lead-off triple with two quick outs, but Sauve walked and pulled off a double steal as Barry raced home and Sauve was safe at second.
The Hoosiers broke out some small ball of their own in the top of the fifth as Peter Serruto’s lead-off single was followed by back-to-back bunts that produced a run as Traxel threw the second one into right field for an error that allowed Serruto to tie the game 4-4.
“When you play 60 games, one of them has to be the worst game of the year defensively,” Mazey said. “It’s just a shame it happened tonight. Had it happened on March 6th, we wouldn’t be talking about it…We just gave them a lot of runs tonight.”
Devin Taylor’s sacrifice fly gave IU a 5-4 lead and a wild pitch allowed Whalen to score to make it 6-4.
Traxel was pulled following a walk in the top of the sixth and was replaced by David Hagaman. Traxel threw 5 1/3 innings, allowing six runs, three earned, on five hits with six strikeouts and three walks.
“We were really fortunate, we took advantage of every one of their miscues,” IU coach Jeff Mercer said. “They’re a great team and Coach Mazey is a great coach and that was very uncharacteristic. But for us, we had to capitalize.”
WVU got a run back in the sixth when Sauve doubled down the right-field line to score Leonard from first base. Sauve drove in another run in the bottom of the eighth, following Leonard’s double with an RBI groundout. Tucker struck out in the next at-bat, stranding the tying run at second base.
“We’re going to have to shake things up a bit,” Mazey said. “We just need something good to happen. I think once something good happens and we get a win, I think we’ll carry the same momentum we have on the bad side.”
Indiana added five insurance runs in the top of the ninth against WVU closer Carlson Reed. McNeely misplayed a ball in right field that allowed two runs to score and Josh Pyne hit a two-run home run two batters later.
The Mountaineers will play Ball State in the losers’ bracket at noon today. Left-hander Ben Hampton will start on the mound.
“If you’re going to win the regional, your better players have to have good games,” Mazey said. “It’s what we didn’t get (Friday). Regionals can be won from losers’ brackets, that’s been proven time and time again…We’re not by any means feeling like the season’s over but we do have to come out and play well (Saturday). If we don’t play well (Saturday), our season will be over.
Indiana will play host Kentucky in the winners’ bracket at 6 p.m.