MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No. 18 Texas (34-16, 11-9) was poised and ready to sweep the series against West Virginia (27-18, 9-8) on a beautiful, warm Mother’s Day in Morgantown. Yesterday’s doubleheader saw the Longhorns outscore the Mountaineers 16-2.
The top of the first inning seemed indicative of another such day. WVU’s right-handed starter Zach Bravo allowed a pair of small ball Longhorn runs before getting hit in the hand and exiting the game. Texas’ lead-off hitter Douglas Hodo III started his day at the plate with a single turned two on a passed ball. Austin Todd joined him on the base path with a walk and the Mountaineer defense was in a dangerous position early. Hodo III was brought home shortly after off a double from the team’s strongest bat, Ivan Melendez, and Todd followed him courtesy of a Murphy Stehly groundout.
When his starter only went an out and 23 pitches deep, West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey selected Chase Smith from the bullpen to fill the hole. The right-handed reliever allowed a third run on a Dylan Campbell single that scored Melendez, but secured the inning’s final two outs in the process. He also added 1-2-3 innings in the second and third, dramatically shutting off hope of a Texas resurgence.
On the mound for the Longhorns, Zane Morehouse was on fire. He sat the Mountaineers down in order in the first, but started to fail in the second inning when the bottom of the West Virginia order saw the plate. A lead-off single from McGwire Holbrook turned two on a wild pitch. Morehouse walked Nathan Blasick. When now-third baseman Dayne Leonard saw his first plate appearance, he flew out to center field, but moved Holbrook to third. First baseman Grant Hussey then sent a single into right field that scored both Holbrook and Blasick to cut the deficit to 3-2. Hussey would come home a few pitches later, when the bottom of the Mountaineer order’s Tevin Tucker launched a triple into left field. Two innings down and the conference series finale was tied at three.
Morehouse was pulled in the third after two full innings, four hits, and three runs. His reliever, Tristan Stevens, came in and shut the Mountaineers down in order. Texas’ offense pulled behind Stevens in the fourth, adding two runs off a Hodo III single. With the lead once more in hand, the Longhorns seemed to settle in. It wasn’t for long. Smith was pulled for WVU’s standard closer Trey Braithwaite in the fourth, and the Longhorn scoring would be stymied by the righty until the ninth inning. Braithwaite’s day on the mound gave the Mountaineer bats ample innings to get into the swing of top-level conference play.
It only took an inning break to get that Mountaineer momentum back. The bottom of the fourth, Leonard walked and was brought home by a Hussey double. The 5-4 Texas lead would stand until the sixth, when WVU struck again. Texas had loaded the bases in the top of the inning with one out, but Braithwaite forced a K and a fly-out to shut the inning down and escape a larger scoring chasm.
The home side of the sixth saw the bottom of West Virginia’s order at work again. Holbrook hit another lead-off single, and Braden Barry was hit by a pitch. With runners on the base path, Ben Abernathy, pinch hitting for Blasick, bunted into a single that advanced the bases full. No outs and Leonard at the plate placed WVU in an auspicious position… and Leonard capitalized. He smacked a bases-clearing double down the right field line, watching as Holbrook, Barry, and Abernathy brought the West Virginia lead to 7-5, one the team wouldn’t let go of again.
The Mountaineers were set in the eighth as well. Braithwaite dealt the Longhorns a 1-2-3 top, and the Mountaineer offense added another score in the bottom. Leonard, back up to bat, hit a quick single that scored Abernathy, and the final West Virginia run of the day came home. Up 8-5 over No. 18 Texas was a position that the Mountaineers wouldn’t squander.
Righty Noah Short came in to relieve Braithwaite (4.1IP-2H-1R-4K) in the ninth inning, but not before the final run got on the base path. Stehly reached on a fielding error by Tucker, and was subsequently brought home off a fielder’s choice from Campbell. Even with a messy ending to the WVU fielding, the Mountaineers had done enough. The final run scored solidified an 8-6 West Virginia win, a narrowly-avoided Longhorn sweep, and the season’s 28th Mountaineer victory. WVU’s eight runs scored off 11 hits, while Texas’ six runs came from 10 hits.
The final also secured Braithwaite’s third win, and closer Short earned his second save. Texas’ Stevens got his sixth loss (5-6) after three innings, three runs, three hits, and a pair of strikeouts.
Next on the agenda, the Mountaineers (28-18, 10-8) return to Monongalia County Ballpark on Tuesday, May 10 to face the Pitt Panthers. First pitch of the midweek finale is set for 6:30 p.m.