LEXINGTON, Ky. — The WVU baseball season ended with a whimper on Sunday as the Mountaineers were shut out for the first time this year, 10-0, in an elimination game against Lexington Regional host Kentucky.
WVU’s (40-20) pitching got behind early and never recovered as the Wildcats (38-18) never had a big offensive inning, but continuously added runs throughout the game.
“West Virginia is an awesome team,” UK coach Nick Mingione said. “For us to be able to shut that team out…you don’t just do that to that team with that offense and with what they can do. They’re a special team, they won 40 games, our guys just executed at a super high level.”
WVU coach Randy Mazey tabbed sophomore Grant Siegel to make his ninth start of the season on the mound, but just his first since April 11. The right-hander lasted just 1.1 innings after allowing two runs in the bottom of the first and another in the second.
“Grant didn’t do anything wrong,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “He’s a guy who has to have tremendous fastball command down at the knees. He’s a ground ball pitcher and when he’s not getting ground balls that means they’re seeing it pretty good.”
Starting pitching had been an issue for the Mountaineers all season beyond weekend starters Blaine Traxel, who pitched Friday, and Ben Hampton, who pitched Saturday.
“That’s been our issue really the whole season, a Sunday starter and a Tuesday starter,” Mazey said. “We’ve tried so many guys and some guys had flashes of brilliance and earned some starts and some guys didn’t. I actually put it out to a vote among the coaches yesterday and three different guys got a vote for starting.”
Kentucky, on the other hand, received a brilliant performance from junior Austin Strickland, making just his second start of the season. Strickland pitched six scoreless innings with six strikeouts while allowing just four hits and one walk.
“I can’t say enough good things about (Strickland),” Mingione said. “What a start at a time when we needed it the most. I think the first inning was great, he just rammed the ball in the strike zone, got a good, quick inning and allowed our offense to score two.”
No one Mazey summoned from WVU’s bullpen could match Strickland as closer Carlson Reed allowed two runs in the fourth and another in the fifth, Keegan Allen surrendered a run in the seven and freshman Gavin Van Kempen gave up three in the eighth.
The lone bright spot in the Mountaineers’ batting order was Big 12 Player of the Year J.J. Wetherholt, who went 3-for-4 with a double, raising his batting average to a nation-best .449 and tying the program record for hits in a single season. The mark of 101 hits was set by Tyler Kuhn in 2008 and matched by Wetherholt this year.
“Part of this season was having a guy I feel is deserving of the Golden Spikes (Award),” Mazey said. “He’s had the best season I’ve ever seen by a single player, but beyond that, the type of teammate he is, the type of leader he is, what he does off the field is equally as impressive and what he does on the field. I’ve never been a part of a season like that.”
Four other Mountaineers had one hit in the contest, all singles.
Kentucky’s offense was led by Nolan McCarthy, who hit his second home run of the season, a two-run shot in the bottom of the second, and had an RBI double in the fourth. Catcher Cevin Burkes hit a bases-clearing double in the eighth inning to also finish with three RBI.
Despite losing seven of its last eight games, West Virginia finished the season tied for the most wins in program history with 40.