GRANVILLE, W. Va. — Seven hits and a season-high crowd were not enough for West Virginia as they fell 2-1 to No. 5 Oklahoma State at Wagener Field at Monongalia County Ballpark on Friday.
The two Friday starters — Justin Campbell of Oklahoma State and Jacob Watters of WVU — battled for a combined 203 pitches and 13.1 innings to open the three-game series, but Nolan McLean’s solo home run in the seventh inning separated the two ball clubs on the scoreboard by the final out.
“That was well-pitched, well-defended, the offense did well to get the hits off the pitchers they faced,” said WVU skipper Randy Mazey. “Those are two of the best pitchers in college baseball going head-to-head, they’re firing bullets out of the bullpen like nobody else has…That’s just a great game, it’s just a shame the Mountaineers had to lose it.”
West Virginia did generate several chances to score despite the winning performance from the righty Campbell (5-1), who logged seven innings of scoreless work in a win for the Cowboys. The Mountaineers knocked six hits off of Campbell and had four at-bats with runners in scoring position against him.
They had an especially strong chance while down two runs in the seventh inning. With McGwire Holbrook on first base, Braden Barry smacked a double down the left field line which sent Holbrook running around the bases.
Holbrook was waved home but was easily thrown out at the plate. Barry made it to third base on the play but was stranded after WVU followed it with a walk and two strikeouts.
“That’s just baseball, you know? We’re an aggressive team, we’re going to make outs on the bases….When you make outs at home plate, it seems like it gets magnified,” Mazey said. “But that’s the type of offense we have, we’re going to force people to play defense against us, and they made a great defensive play.”
Victor Scott II broke the scoreless drought in the subsequent frame with a sacrifice fly, sending leadoff man Austin Davis stole both second and third after recording a single off of reliever Roman Phansalkar. WVU went without a hit in the ninth, however, as McLean moved from third base to the mound and recorded the save for the Cowboys.
Watters (2-2) took the loss despite logging a quality start for the Mountaineers. He pitched for 6.1 innings and allowed two runs on six hits with eight strikeouts while tossing a season-high 109 pitches. The righty had some trouble with his control, which helped contribute to his first home run allowed of the season.
“That’s just something I have to be more consistent with. It’s just a mentality-type deal,” Watters said. “I find myself trying to aim the ball sometimes too much, and that’s the outcome.”
Chris Sleeper relieved him in the seventh and tossed the next 2.2 innings, allowing two hits.
Marcus Brown led the game with three hits for the Cowboys and scored the first run of the game on an RBI single by Caeden Trenkle. Trenkle logged a pair of hits as well, while McLean’s homer was his only knock of the night.
Davis, Barry and Mikey Kluska all had a two-hit game for the Mountaineers, while Barry and Kluska each hit a double.
The Mountaineers enjoyed a season-high attendance to open the series as 3,291 fans packed into Wagener Field at Monongalia County Ballpark. That’s the highest attendance at the park since WVU’s NCAA Regional victory against Fordham in 2019.
“It just makes it 10 times better, like everything else going on. Knowing that you have faith in your teammates behind you, knowing that you’re going to score runs late in the game. Confidence,” Watters said. “You have the whole fanbase behind you, you’re having fun, adrenaline is rushing through your body.”
Game two of the series is set for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. WVU lefty Ben Hampton (5-2, 3.02 ERA) will square off against righty Victor Mederos (3-1, 5.68), and the game will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.