WVU Baseball (15-10, 1-1) entered Lupton Baseball Stadium in Fort Worth, Tx. only having won a single series with the TCU Horned Frogs (19-8, 6-2).
In 2017, then-No. 3 TCU came to Morgantown and registered bookend losses to head coach Randy Mazey and the Mountaineers. WVU put up two 5-4 wins on the weekend and finished the season in the semifinals of the Big 12 Conference Championship and taking part in the NCAA’s Winston-Salem Regional.
TCU had only allowed two total WVU wins since. Until this weekend.
After recording its fifth comeback win in the ninth inning or later on Friday night, WVU gave the Horned Frogs the series tie yesterday with a 5-4 final. Today, the Mountaineer small ball style rewarded early.
TCU’s Oregon transfer right-handed pitcher Brett Walker got the start, and immediately gave up a lead-off single to senior Austin Davis, who then stole second. Junior Victor Scott recorded his 24th RBI of the season with a hard-hit single up the middle that scored Davis and christened the scoreboard 1-0.
Freshman Grant Hussey and sophomore McGwire Holbrook echoed a single each, the latter of which brought Scott home to bump up the score to 2-0. At this point in the game, WVU had already logged as many hits as the entirety of yesterday’s showing.
Fifth year right-handed pitcher Zach Bravo took the mound for the Mountaineers; his fourth season start began rocky, but the West Virginia infield kept the game within the dirt. Walker and Bravo kept the game clean and quick in the second. Walker retired his side with two strikeouts, and Bravo took four batters to net a strikeout of his own.
Walker tamed the Mountaineer onslaught in the third as well, and WVU sophomore left fielder Braden Barry caught the Horned Frog batters slipping with a pair of cleanly-fielded line drives.
Barry came out on the opposite side of the ball in the top of the fourth with a two-out double to right field. Walker, down 2-0 and permitting small ball hits and walks, hit redshirt junior Dayne Leonard next, placing runners on first and second. Both Barry and Leonard would eventually come home, the former courtesy of a single from sophomore Mikey Kluska. Kluska and Leonard would join the Mountaineer run club when the bottom of the order’s redshirt junior Tevin Tucker smacked a double off the top of the wall. He brought Leonard in from second and Kluska from first, effectively sealing the Mountaineers’ scoring potential at 5-0.
The Horned Frogs forced Bravo to surrender back-to-back fourth inning walks of sophomores Kurtis Byrne and Luke Boyers, as well as an RBI single from junior Bobby Goodloe that would plate Bryne. TCU’s four hits earned a single run, but the game’s final score wouldn’t manifest until the sixth inning.
Walker was having a solid day on the mound, but the Mountaineer lineup got bats on his pitches, forcing a series of groundouts and fly outs in the fifth and sixth. Walker’s offense tacked on another run after he confidently sat the Mountaineer side down in 1-2-3 fashion in the sixth.
Bravo exited the game after 5.0 innings pitched, one run, four hits, two strikeouts, and 100 pitches. In his place: West Virginia righty Chase Smith. The fifth year pitcher began his outing with senior Tommy Sacco on first after being hit by a pitch. Smith then yielded an advancement to third on a throwing error to Hussey at first base. He walked Boyers before ending his day on the mound (0.1 IP and 15 pitches thrown) in lieu of fifth year righty Trey Braithwaite.
Braithwaite forced TCU’s Goodloe to ground out into the inning’s second out, but not before Sacco scored the Horned Frogs’ second run. Braithwaite’s dealings tightened up in the seventh and eighth innings, retiring TCU batters in 28 pitches and setting the tone for a required three-run bottom of the ninth. Not only did the Horned Frogs not string together three runs, the lineup only exhausted three batters. Braithwaite concluded the game with a 1-2-3 inning to completely shut the bottom of the Horned Frogs’ lineup down and secure the conference win.
With the win, the Mountaineers move to 16-10 and 2-1 in conference, while the Horned Frogs surrender the team’s first Big 12 series loss of 2022 and sit at 19-9 and 6-3. WVU’s five runs came off nine hits, while TCU’s pair of runs were earned from four hits. WVU’s Bravo got the win, now at 3-0, and Braithwaite secured the save. TCU’s Brett Walker’s six innings, seven hits, five runs, four Ks, and 79 pitches gained an updated record of 3-1.
The victorious Mountaineers will return to Monongalia County Ballpark on Wednesday to face in-state rival Marshall at 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.