In a game that featured 15 total runs, 28 combined hits, 11 extra-base hits and four lead changes, a walk-off walk might be the least exciting ending imaginable. West Virginia will happily take that ending, however, as the Mountaineers defeated Kansas 8-7 Tuesday night on a bases-loaded walk by Victor Scott in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“On the scale of walk-off excitement, a walk is one of the lowest,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said after the game. “But it doesn’t change the fact that was a really good win for us. Victor Scott’s at-bat there was just the culmination of all of our at-bats over the course of the whole night.”
Facing Kansas reliever Jonah Ulane with the bases loaded and the game tied 7-7 in the bottom of the ninth, Scott worked a nine-pitch at-bat that eventually ended in the game-winning walk. That advanced pinch-runner Ben Abernathy to home and gave WVU the 8-7 win.
A walk-off walk is so unusual and anti-climatic, shortstop Kevin Brophy said the team was not quite sure how to even celebrate afterward.
“I turned to Tyler Doanes when it got to a 3-2 count and I said, ‘I’ll be happy but I swear if this ends on a walk’,” Brophy said with a laugh. “You don’t know what to do. You don’t know who to go to, the guy at home, the guy at first. But I’m just happy we won.”
Tuesday’s game was a Big 12 Tournament play-in game between the Mountaineers and Jayhawks, the first of its kind due to this season’s COVID-19 changes.
Freshman Carlson Reed (4-4) started on the mound for West Virginia and did not have his best stuff. Reed lasted just 1 1/3 innings, allowing Kansas to build a 5-0 lead in just the second inning. It was a three-run home run by KU shortstop Maui Ahuna that knocked Reed out of the game.
Wanting to save his more experienced arms to potentially use later in the tournament, Mazey turned the ball over to another freshman, left-hander Ben Hampton (4-3). Hampton gave the Mountaineers exactly what they needed, pitching five full innings and allowing only two runs.
While Hampton stabilized WVU’s pitching, the offense got to work. Third baseman Alec Burns gave WVU its first jolt with a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning to make the score 5-1.
“It was kind of a spark when Alec Burns went yard and from there on out, we kind of never turned back,” Brophy said.
The Mountaineers scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 5-5, the big hit being a two-out, two-run triple from catcher Matt McCormick. Then in the bottom of the fifth, designated hitter Nathan Blasick led the inning off with a triple and scored on an RBI groundout by first baseman Hudson Byorick. Kansas came back to score two runs off Hampton in the sixth to retake a 7-6 lead.
In the eighth, Burns hit a single up the middle and was replaced on the bases by pinch-runner Braden Barry. Brophy then hit a double to left field that would have advanced Barry to third, except Kansas did not have anyone covering second base so when the throw from the outfield went to second, Barry was able to scamper home and tie the game.
“I see the ball coming at me [at second] and I’m turning and yelling at Barry to go home,” Brophy said. “He eventually saw it and got there in time.”
Then in the ninth, Paul McIntosh was hit by a pitch and back-to-back walks to Blasick and Byorick loaded the bases for Scott. Despite Scott having good speed and being a capable bunter, Mazey said he never even considered putting on any sort of squeeze play.
“We weren’t going to end the game with that,” Mazey said. “We swung it well all night and had a bunch of hits and were getting our swings off so I didn’t even consider a bunt there.”
With the win, WVU advances into the double-elimination portion of the Big 12 tournament and will face No. 1-seed Texas at 4 p.m. Wednesday evening. WVU ace Jackson Wolf (5-5) will face off against Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Ty Madden (6-3).