For the first time since joining the league, West Virginia baseball has completed two Big 12 sweeps in a season — and it happened at the perfect time for the squad.
WVU finished its sweep of Kansas State on Saturday with a 5-1 victory at home behind the third winning performance from freshman starter Aidan Major and the eighth save of the season from Trey Braithwaite. The Mountaineers put themselves in a position to move up a spot in the Big 12 standings if Texas falls to Kansas.
“The mark of a good program is you keep doing things that have never been done before, and you keep climbing the ladder,” Randy Mazey said. There are still some things yet to do…that we can accomplish that have never been done before.”
West Virginia scored its first run in the opening frame in perfect “Mazey-ball” fashion. While Austin Davis stood on third base, Victor Scott II attempted to steal second but was caught in a pickle. Scott ended up getting picked off, but it opened enough room for Davis to bolt home to log the opening score.
“I didn’t want that to happen,” Mazey said. “I wanted to steal the base and have McGwire up there with second and third and one out, but any time you can get the lead, it’s to your advantage.”
Kaelen Culpepper answered for the Wildcats in the next inning with a solo home run, but it wasn’t enough as Davis and JJ Wetherholt each added RBIs in the third.
The game’s result was sealed in the bottom of the eighth when Grant Hussey blasted a two-run home run over the left-field bullpen, his team-leading 10th of the season.
Major (3-0) worked for five full innings and struck out five Wildcats, allowing just one run on three hits. Noah Short relieved him in the sixth and threw two frames with just one hit before Braithwaite closed the contest out in the eighth and ninth.
The freshman starter for WVU has seen a massive increase in his role over the last several weeks. He fought through an early-season knee injury and didn’t earn his first start until the Mountaineers’ clash with Pitt at PNC Park on April 20. Since then, he has started three more games and added a pair of wins to his record. He will likely get the ball to start one of WVU’s games in the Big 12 Tournament if the Mountaineers need him.
“It’ll be fun,” he said. “It’s still kind of nerve-wracking, I’m still trying to take it all in.”
Dylan Phillips (0-1) took the loss after three innings of work. He allowed two runs on four hits.
Dayne Leonard of WVU was the only player to record a multi-hit game logging two singles and scoring a run. Besides Hussey’s late-game homer, the only extra-base hit by the Mountaineers was an RBI triple by Davis in the third inning.
Three of Kansas State’s five hits went for extra bases, including doubles by Dominic Johnson and Cole Johnson.
As of the final out at Wagener Field, West Virginia sits as the No. 6 seed in the Big 12 standings with a 14-10 record, matching that of fifth-seed Texas. The Longhorns host Kansas on Saturday afternoon, and if they fall to the Jayhawks, WVU would move up to that No. 5 spot. If Texas wins, however, the Mountaineers’ spot will be solidified in the six-seed.
The Big 12 Tournament begins at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas on Wednesday. This is the first season in which the stadium will host the competition.
“We always play well in the Big 12 Tournament,” Mazey said. “I think because I don’t know if people overlook us or…I guess our guys get excited to get down there and compete on that national stage, but we’ve played well in that tournament just about every year we’ve gone down there. I don’t see why this year would be any different.”