PITTSBURGH — In a high-scoring game between two bitter rivals, West Virginia fell to Pitt on the road Wednesday night, 9-6, in the first installment of the Backyard Brawl this season.
The Mountaineers (14-9) made a big comeback in the third and fourth innings to tie the game, but were unable to capitalize on opportunities later on against the Panthers (13-10 overall). The loss for the Mountaineers also ends their four-game winning streak they had coming into Backyard Brawl.
“It wasn’t the lineup,” Mountaineers head coach Randy Mazey said. “Our lineup’s doing fine. We scored six runs, got nine or ten hits. We were in the game, we just walked 10 guys. You don’t throw strikes, you can’t pitch, no matter how old you are. If you’re six years old, 16 or if you’re 26 or 36, if you can’t throw the ball over the plate, you’ll never win.”
Pitt came after WVU sophomore starting pitcher Ben Abernathy early in the first inning, loading the bases with one out.
Senior infielder Bryce Hulett singled up the middle, bringing junior catcher Tatem Levins and senior infielder Jeffrey Wehler home to open up the scoring.
Junior first baseman Jack Anderson followed Hulett’s lead and singled to center field to score junior infielder Sky Duff, making it a 3-0 ball game.
Junior infielder Brock Franks finished the inning off by hitting a three-run home run to right field, making it the second game in a row that Franks has homered, and gave the Panthers a 6-0 lead. Abernathy’s day finished after the home run, finishing with a line of 0.2 innings pitched, four hits, one walk and six earned runs for a 81.00 ERA.
The Mountaineers started their comeback in the third inning, with first-year infielder JJ Wetherholt hitting a leadoff double, stealing third and junior outfielder Victor Scott III getting a walk.
First-year first baseman Grant Hussey singled through the right side to score Wetherholt and move Scott to third. Scott then scored off a ground out double play to cut the lead to four at 6-2.
WVU kept it going in the fourth inning, going right after Pitt junior relief pitcher Ryan Miller, with sophomore infielder Mikey Kluska walking and senior outfielder Austin Davis singling with one out.
Wetherholt then singled to the right and scored Kluska from second base to cut the lead to three and Scott completed the comeback as he hit a three-run home run to right field, tying the game at six.
Pitt responded by taking the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Duff singled to right field and scored Wehler from second base, making it a 7-6 ball game.
The Mountaineers had a chance to tie the game at the top of the fifth inning, as sophomore outfielder Braden Barry hit a single and moved to second after a ground out. Redshirt junior infielder Tevin Tucker singled to centerfield on a hit-and-run and it looked like Barry had scored to tie the game as he made it home.
The Panthers realized that Barry didn’t touch third base and touched third base themselves to get him out. The incident went to replay and the umpires determined that he didn’t touch third base and was out.
“Two things, I think you preach it for your team to be fundamentally sound,” Pitt head coach Mike Bell said. “Running the bases, playing catch, those kinds of things. Attacking hitters, making sure we’re not giving up free passes. But I thought it was a great job by our dugout too. Staying in the game and as they saw the play it was an awkward situation and to see him miss it. The replay system here is phenomenal. There’s no doubt he missed it.”
Pitt added to their lead in the sixth inning, as Levins hit a two-run home run out to right field to increase the lead to 9-6.
WVU got a good chance to cut Pitt’s lead in the top of the eighth inning, with Davis on third base and Scott on second base with two outs. First-year first baseman Grant Hussey failed to deliver, as he struck out to end the inning.
The Panthers loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth inning and looked to add more to their lead. Mountaineers sophomore right-handed pitcher Carlson Reed took care of the Panthers as he struck out junior outfielder Kyle Hess to end the inning.
WVU looked like it got a good break to start the ninth inning, with redshirt junior designated hitter Dayne Leonard getting hit by a pitch. Replay showed that Leonard did not get hit and after having to bat again, he struck out and WVU lost the game soon after.
WVU travels to Fort Worth, Texas this weekend to take on No. 10 TCU in their first Big 12 series of the season.