By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – West Virginia has been in the state of Oklahoma long enough to establish residence. The Mountaineers arrived in Stillwater on May 15 for their season-ending series, then moved here and on Monday witnessed the devastating tornado in nearby Moore.
A team picked to finish last has bonded over a season with a new coach, hours upon hours on the road and adjusting to the Big 12 Conference. Saturday's 6-5, 10-inning victory over Oklahoma State in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship displayed how and why the Mountaineers have been a feel good story.
The story didn’t have the happiest of endings, though. West Virginia needed TCU to beat Kansas in Saturday night’s final game in order to win Pool Two and advance to Sunday’s championship game against Oklahoma. The Jayhawks beat the Frogs, 4-0.
“I feel sorry for coach Mazey,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “We were doing everything we could to help him advance.”
The Mountaineers gave themselves a chance with a heroic rally. Jacob Rice grounded a single through the right side to score Bobby Boyd from second base with the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning. Boyd just beat the throw home from Oklahoma State right fielder Zach Fisher.
The come-from-behind, walk-off victory brought out the emotions in coach Randy Mazey.
"They know me and they know how passionate I can get," he said as his eyes moistened. "I love these guys. What they have done this year, just the grit and grind-it-out mentality, they are relentless and they never give up."
No. 3 seed West Virginia (33-26) had plenty of reasons to give up. In the first six innings, they watched the Cowboys (39-17) build a 5-0 lead. Oklahoma State had help as the Mountaineers committed five errors.
"I thought we had a chance to catch TCU's record in the middle of the game," said Mazey, referring to the Championship-record nine errors committed by the Frogs in Friday's loss to West Virginia.
In the first inning, WVU shortstop Michael Constantini's throwing error gave Oklahoma State an extra out and cleanup hitter Randy McCurry cashed in with a two-run homer to left center. Throwing errors in the third and sixth innings helped the Cowboys extend the lead to 5-0.
Oklahoma State starter Mark Robinette allowed a triple to the leadoff hitter Bobby Boyd but then retired the next 13 he faced. In the home half of the sixth, West Virginia broke through with the long ball.
Ryan Tuntland had a two-run single to make it 5-2 and then Ryan McBroom blasted a two-run homer out of the park to left field. Brady Wilson then hit an 0-2 pitch into the stands in left to tie the game at 5-all.
"I was finally able to put a good swing on one … yeah, I guess I got all of it," said McBroom, who led the Big 12 in homers this season.
Oklahoma State twice had the bases loaded and failed to score when the Mountaineers turned double plays. The loss was the Cowboys' seventh in a row in Big 12 Championship play.
"Offensively, we were in a position several times to put a few runs on the board and had a few chances to add to it," said Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday, whose team failed to hold leads in its three losses here. "We battled back and had our opportunities in the final four innings to make a run back at them, but we were unable to.
"One pitch or one play can change the complexion of the entire game, which we learned during the span of these three games."