Oklahoma City, OK – Mountaineer ace Alek Manoah retired 10 and was backed up by some terrific defense, primarily from Brandon White, limiting the best offensive team in the conference as The No. 18 West Virginia Mountaineers (36-18) advanced in the winners bracket of the Big 12 Tournament over the regular season champion and No. 7 Texas Tech Red Raiders (37-16) 5-1 inside Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark Thursday night.
Brandon White made big contributions with his defense throughout the night and it started in the bottom of the second by hustling to back up an attempted steal from Cody Masters and as the ball was overthrown, White runs in, scoops it up and guns down Masters at third for the second out of the inning.
Manoah hit four batters on the night, but his first in the third inning would lead to the only run he gave up on the night. He hit Gabe Holt on a full count pitch, then Dylan Neuse doubled down the right field line to give Texas Tech runners in scoring position. Brian Klein gave Texas Tech the lead on a sacrifice fly to centerfield, scoring Holt.
Red Raiders starting pitcher Caleb Kilian had seven strikeouts in the first three innings. However, the Mountaineers responded in the top of the fourth. Kilian hit Brandon White and Darius Hill followed it up with a deep fly ball to left-centerfield that left fielder Kelly Parker misjudged for an RBI triple. Paul McIntosh hit a deep fly ball to center for the sacrifice RBI to give WVU the 2-1 lead.
Brandon White ended the sixth with a Top 10 over the shoulder diving catch on a deep line drive from Kurt Wilson.
“I just got a good jump on it and just hoped for the best.” Commented White.
It was again White in the seventh with another Top 10 worthy catch on a one-out shallow line drive by Holt and holding the runner at first.
“It just hung up in the air.” Said White. “I didn’t realize it was going to stay up as long, I just got to it.”
The Mountaineers got out of the inning on an unassisted ground ball to Tyler Doanes for the force out.
Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock went to his bullpen for Taylor Floyd to begin the eighth after he got a good seven innings from Kilian, striking out nine and giving up two runs on two hits.
Kevin Brophy started the eighth ripping a single into right field, then with some aggressive base running, he took third on a flare to centerfield from TJ Lake that setup an RBI sacrifice fly to right field extending the Mountaineer lead.
Tadlock called in Caleb Freeman to the mound and Tyler Doanes singled into left to get Lake into scoring position. Then Brandon White capped his night off with an RBI single to right-center to put WVU up 4-1.
The Mountaineers added an insurance run in the ninth, started by Paul McIntosh working a lead-off walk. West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey sent Austin Davis to pinch run and used his speed to steal second. Then Ivan Gonzalez brought him in with a double to right-centerfield.
Alek Manoah’s night ended after eight in another big performance with 10 stikeouts only giving up four hits and a run on 126 pitches on the biggest stage of his career.
“I just go out and I’m trying to win at bats.” Said Manoah. “In the later innings I let my competitiveness take over. I don’t really think ‘start a game and try and pace it off’ cause any team can beat you in the first inning and then I’m playing catch-up. Just go out and attack every hitter and let my competitiveness take over and let my work through out the week just show off. I work really hard between starts and I think I’m in good shape to be able to throw late in games this late in the year because of that.”
Mazey brought in his closer Sam Kessler to finish the game and he answered the call, closing it out with a 1-2-3 inning.
“We kind of knew going into it with AK (Alek Manoah) versus (Caleb) Kilian that it was going to be a game just like that. The over under was going to be really, really low on that game and it held true to form. Both of those guys were really, really good. Kilian has been really, really good his whole career here. He’s really hard to hit and when we scored in the, whatever inning it was, I heard Darius Hill yell out of the dugout ‘it’s taken us three years, but we finally scored off this guy.’ He’s that good. But our guys are grinders. AK’s just and unbelievable grinder. Throws to Pudge (Ivan Gonzalez) all the time, he’s an unbelievable grinder. It’s just the makeup and the chemistry of our team.”
Mazey continued with Brandon’ White’s defensive plays. “The catches Brandon White makes in centerfield are ridiculous. He’s been doing it for three years. He’s a human highlight film. Besides from that, changed the game. Took a run off the board – the one he made over his head. The one in front of him, if he doesn’t make that catch, that’s Gabe Holt you’re putting on the bases and that guy changes the game on the bases. Couldn’t be prouder of not just these two guys, but everybody.”
The Mountaineers will get the day off Friday and will return to action Saturday morning at 10:00 am est to face the winner of Texas Tech and Kansas State. WVU is one win away from the Big 12 Championship game.
|Team Batting Totals||30||5||8||5||1||1||0||3||9||1||0||2||3||2||2||27||7||2||—|