WVU baseball: Frogs’ reliever ends series streak
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - All good things must come to an end.
The West Virginia University baseball team found out the hard way on Sunday afternoon in a 16-6 loss to Texas Christian in the final Big 12 Conference homestand of the season at Appalachian Power Park.
A crowd of 1,820 looked on as the Mountaineers dropped to 30-22 overall and 12-9 in Big 12 Conference play, while the Horned Frogs improved to 25-25 and 10-11.
For West Virginia, the loss snapped a three-series conference winning streak that stretched to early April. The last series loss came at Baylor and was followed by series wins at Texas and at home against Kansas and nationally ranked Oklahoma.
The loss also dropped the second-place Mountaineers to two games behind conference-leading Kansas State with only next weekend's three-game series at Oklahoma State remaining.
After WVU enjoyed a promising start to the afternoon, TCU freshman reliever Alex Young manhandled the Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers chased Horned Frog starter Andrew Mitchell after just one-third inning, in which the right-hander allowed five hits and four runs. Mitchell left the game trailing 4-1 and with a pair of runners on base.
That's where the excitement ended for West Virginia as Young closed out the inning without allowing further damage and dominated Mountaineer hitters throughout the middle innings.
Young, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound left-hander, allowed just three hits and one run, while striking out five and walking one over 62/3 innings.
"Phenomenal," said TCU Coach Jim Schlossnagle of Young's relief performance. "He's a really talented freshman that we've been using at the back of games. He's tied for the team lead in wins now (6), and he leads our team in saves (5).
"We feel like he's a starting pitcher down the road in our program, but now we have found somebody that's going to pitch in a start next weekend and certainly in the conference tournament"
TCU reliever Justin Scharf used his right-handed submarine delivery to toss a scoreless eighth inning before Travis Evans came on to close out the game while allowing a single run in the ninth.
While West Virginia struggled to produce offense, the Horned Frogs' batters were busy punishing Mountaineer pitchers for a season high 18 hits.
TCU also established season highs in runs scored, RBI (14), doubles (8) and tied its previous high with two homers.
The Horned Frogs scored in every inning except the second and fourth, while scoring at least two runs in six innings.
WVU starter John Means (4-3) took the loss, having surrendered eight hits and six runs in just 42/3 innings. Mountaineer relievers allowed 10 hits and 10 runs in 41/3 innings.
"Means was a little bit up in the zone today, the wind was blowing and the balls were carrying," WVU Coach Randy Mazey said. "They abused our pitching pretty good today.
"That goes back to pitching 101. We threw a lot of balls that were belt high and it seems like every time they swung the bats they either hit a double or a homer. That's why you teach pitchers to pitch at the knees because it's a lot easier to hit balls that are belt high than knee high."
TCU was led by catcher Kyle Bacak's four hits, while outfielder Cody Jones and first baseman Derek Odell had three hits apiece. Kevin Cron had four RBI for the Horned Frogs, including a two-run homer in the eighth. Paul Hendrix also smacked a two-run shot for TCU.
West Virginia was led by Jacob Rice's three hits, while Brady Wilson, Ryan Tuntland and Billy Fleming had two hits apiece. Ryan McBroom led WVU with a pair of RBI.
West Virginia will face Marshall on Tuesday at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley, before heading to Oklahoma State next weekend to close out the regular season.
Oklahoma State entered Sunday one-half game behind the Mountaineers in the conference standings.
"I was just telling the team that who would have ever thought that with one weekend left to go in the season, that we'd still have an opportunity to win the Big 12 (regular season)," Mazey said. "We thought getting into this league that we were facing something that was pretty insurmountable.
"But from the way they've played the entire season to how hard they've grinded it out, they've climbed almost to the top of the mountain. And we've got an opportunity now with three games to go, to get to the top.
"These next 10 days for Mountaineer baseball are going to be pretty important and I couldn't be prouder of where we are right now."