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Clutch Hits, Base Running Elude WVU Baseball During Losing Streak



WVU Baseball first baseman Grant Hussey

After looking invincible for long stretches of the season, WVU Baseball fell cold at the worst possible time, losing five games in a row en route to missing out on an undisputed Big 12 Championship, then getting swept out of the conference tournament in two games. In a matter of less than a week the Mountaineers went from the No. 6 team in the nation looking to host regional and super regional rounds in the NCAA Tournament to needing an at large bid to back their way in.

While the Mountaineers struggled at times this season, dropping series to Georgia Southern and Kansas they hadn’t suffered struggles this widespread (or for this long): in fact, they hadn’t lost in a sweep since the 2021 season. 

Here’s a look at what went wrong for the Mountaineers down the stretch, and whether they can fix it in time for the NCAA Tournament.

Starting Pitching Suffers

During their series with the Longhorns, the Mountaineers saw their pitching collapse, giving up 29 runs in three games, the most they’d given up in a weekend series by eight runs. Texas jumped all over WVU Baseball’s starters, chasing Carson Estridge and Ben Hampton from the game in the first inning and tagging Blaine Traxel for eight runs across five frames. 

Hampton and Traxel are excellent pitchers, but they aren’t the type to overpower opposing batters. With fastballs sitting in the mid 80s, they rely on their stuff and deception to outsmart hitters, which can leave them vulnerable to lots of contact when they aren’t on their A game. 

West Virginia largely managed to correct those issues in the Big 12 Tournament, though, allowing six runs to Texas Tech’s high powered offense before limiting Oklahoma State to three runs. Hampton pitched six innings in their elimination game against the Cowboys, and didn’t allow an earned run. 

The Mountaineers possessed a fighting chance in each game: this time their offense fell to pieces.

Offensive Struggles

WVU Baseball averaged less than three runs per game during their five game losing streak. They relied on small ball all year, wearing teams down with slow burning rallies instead of the long ball. When their bats cooled, though, that made it nearly impossible for them to score. In addition, their freewheeling base running tendencies dried up during the losing streak, with just four stolen bases in the final five games, taking their foot off the gas and easing up pressure on opposing defenses.

Falling behind early forced the Mountaineers off their game plan, and they suddenly lost the ability to grind out at-bats in crunch time that seemed natural to them all season.

West Virginia stranded the tying run 90 feet away in the ninth inning of Thursday’s loss to Oklahoma State, going down swinging—but not connecting.

WVU Baseball Exits Big 12 Tournament Empty Handed After 3-2 Loss to Oklahoma State


They dealt with similar issues during a stretch where they lost three of four to Kansas and Penn State in early April, and rebounded to reel off their hottest stretch of the season.

These aren’t uncharted waters for the Mountaineers, and they’ve shown they can find the path forward to great success.

Baseball Will Humble You

After allowing just five earned runs in 34 innings to begin the season, good for a 1.32 ERA, Reed allowed the decisive run in the elimination game against Oklahoma State, his first loss of the season.

That’s not a knock on Reed in the slightest: it’s damn near impossible to be perfect in any sport, much less baseball, and he was bound to struggle at some point. His struggles just compounded with those of the rest of the team to happen at the worst possible time, a perfect encapsulation of the Mountaineers’ skid. 

West Virginia’s pitchers did an excellent job of turning the page between the Texas series and the Big 12 Tournament: it’s a trait that head coach Randy Mazey looks to instill upon his players. Their offense will have to follow suit, or they’re going nowhere fast in their pursuit of a College World Series.

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