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WVU Baseball Tops Baylor 7-5 for First Big 12 Series Sweep Since 2016



MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The skies finally cleared for the West Virginia baseball team in the finale of 2022’s series with the Baylor Bears, as the Mountaineers earned a 7-5 win on Sunday for the team’s first Big 12 series sweep since 2016.

Two wins to kick off the weekend propelled WVU into at least its second series win of the season, but the Mountaineers (19-10, 4-1) were hungry for a sweep of the Bears (16-14, 2-6). West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey hadn’t had a Big 12 Conference weekend to his name since 2016, when his team swept the Texas Longhorns at Monongalia County Ballpark 11-2, 14-7, and 9-5.

The 2016 season ended with a 36-22 record and a loss in the final of the Big 12 Championship to TCU. This season is shaping up to be similar. WVU entered Sunday ranked No. 1 in the conference, but Mazey’s team didn’t care about rankings. They cared about winning each individual game, including today.

Mazey sent right-handed pitcher Zach Bravo to the mound to start the game off, and the fifth year had a lights-out first three innings. He sat the entire Baylor lineup down in order, throwing down three strikeouts in the process.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineer offense was lighting up the base paths. Four singles, a sac bunt, and a double scored four in the first inning alone. Back-to-back singles from lead-off man, senior Austin Davis and freshman JJ Wetherholt put good looks out for the rest of the Mountaineer lineup. Sophomore McGwire Holbrook hit the third single and scored Davis. Wetherholt came in right behind him courtesy of a hard-hit double from sophomore Braden Barry. The middle of the lineup concluded its RBI streak with a single from redshirt junior Dayne Leonard that scored both Holbrook and Barry and pumped the score up to a hearty, back-to-back-to-back 4-0 Mountaineer lead.

“We said, going into it, after you win the first two games, the way to win game three, which is the hardest game to win, after you win the first two, is to come out with aggression and energy and grab a lead,” Mazey said.

Down 4-0 in the second inning, the Bears pulled starting right-handed pitcher Jake Jackson after one inning, six hits, four runs, and no Ks, but the WVU bats had already begun their attack. On right-handed reliever Harrison Caley, the Mountaineers added two more runs. Caley saw the top of WVU’s lineup, and the big three produced again. Davis doubled, Wetherholt sent a sac fly to center field to advance him, and Scott brought him home with a routine single. Scott would also come home when the lineup’s clean-up guy, Holbrook, shot a single into right field. Six runs on nine hits put West Virginia in a comfortable position, and Bravo’s 1-2-3 third inning only served to heighten the anticipation.

Then, the Bears began the fourth inning. Bravo, who had sped his way through the lineup the first time, failed to replicate. He walked lead-off junior Jack Pineda and sophomore Tre Richardson to put a runner in scoring position; a fly-out from yesterday’s star, sophomore Jared McKenzie, advanced the runners a bag. Bravo walked Baylor’s clean-up hitter, Kyle Nevin, to load the bases, and the game got out of hand quickly.

A quick single from fifth year Chase Wehsener scored Pineda, and the bases reloaded when Bravo also walked Casen Neumann. The Bears earned their second run when Bravo hit the next batter, Caley, and scored Richardson. Mazey pulled Bravo after 3.2 innings, no hits, a duo of runs, and three Ks and a loaded base path, in favor of right-handed reliever Noah Short. The redshirt junior immediately hit Baylor’s Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo and walked in Wehsener. Baylor’s three runs had come from zero hits, but that wouldn’t last long. Sophomore 9-hole hitter Alex Gonzales smashed a 2-RBI single that scored Caley and Neumann to cut a comfortable Mountaineer lead to 6-5 over the course of nine batters, two of whom advanced after being hit by pitches, and four walks.

From there, Baylor’s freshman reliever Mason Marriott pitched the Mountaineers into a lull. The bottom of the fourth saw Marriott walk Davis and promptly pick him off trying to steal second. Marriott sat Wetherholt and Scott down with two strikeouts to end the inning, but WVU’s second reliever did just as well. Freshman righty Chris Sleeper got the Mountaineer defense out of the fifth inning in 1-2-3 fashion with two groundouts. The Mountaineers lead, but were about to squander two straight innings of bases-loaded potential.

West Virginia loaded the bases in the fifth with a Barry single, a walk from freshman Grant Hussey, and an advancement from sophomore Mikey Kluska after being hit by a pitch. All three stayed in their spots when the bottom of the lineup’s Tevin Tucker remained the sole Mountaineer to record no hits this game. The redshirt junior struck out swinging, stranding three of his teammates.

The Mountaineer mojo clicked for the final time with the sixth inning, when Davis sent a solo home run over the left field wall for the game’s final score, 7-5. He would eventually conclude the game a triple short of hitting for the cycle.

“He’s a special player,” Mazey said of Davis. “He’s worth the price of a season ticket to come and watch that guy play. He’s a great hitter. He’s a great outfielder. He made some unbelievable plays defensively and hit a big homer today.”

The Mountaineers could have added runs further down the lineup that inning too, but left the bases loaded once more with Barry at first, Holbrook at second, and Scott 90 feet away from the Mountaineers’ eighth run.

The Bears wouldn’t have another opportunity to close the scoring gap in the seventh or eighth. Sleeper retired the top of the order in the seventh inning with a groundout and a pair of fly-outs, and the middle of the order with a fly-out and a pair of groundouts in the eighth. He left the game in the ninth inning, in lieu of Mountaineer fifth year closer Trey Braithwaite. The right-hander quickly forced Cardoza-Oquendo into a groundout double play and got Pineda to hit right at Hussey at first base to record the game’s final out.

A mixture of four Mountaineers took the mound in the win; Sleeper recorded his second season win (2-4), while Braithwaite earned his third save. Baylor’s starter, Jackson, went back to Waco with his third loss (2-3) after a single inning pitched.

Tucker concluded today as the sole hitless Mountaineer in the lineup; the remaining eight combined for a solid day at the plate: seven runs on 13 hits, seven RBIs, a trio of doubles, two stolen bases, and the first conference sweep since this roster’s fifth years (Braithwaite, Bravo, and RHP Chase Smith) were juniors in high school.

“It’s so hard to win a series, let alone sweep a series, but you can put some of that onto the crowd today,” Mazey said. “The crowd was into it, energetic and getting excited when we were getting out of innings, and I tell people all the time, don’t come to the game for enjoyment. Come to help us win, and I think they did that today.”

Ahead of continuing Big 12 play with Oklahoma State in Morgantown this weekend, the Mountaineers will travel to Happy Valley to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions on Tuesday. That game at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is slated for a 6 p.m. first pitch.

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