Pitching and defense have been two of West Virginia’s strengths for much of this season, though both have been a bit rusty as of late. The pitching and defensive rough patch continued Tuesday night on the road against Penn State.
After largely silencing the Nittany Lions for five innings, WVU struggled to find the strike zone and get outs in the sixth and seventh. A pair of errors on one play in the sixth inning negated the Mountaineers from getting out of the inning, and instead allowed four Penn State runners to score and turn the game on its head.
The seven-run sixth inning gave Penn State (18-11, 1-5 Big Ten) and its large home crowd all the confidence and momentum they needed. Penn State downed West Virginia 11-6 inside Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
West Virginia (23-10, 3-3 Big 12) scored at least one run in five of the first six innings of the game, doing so in a variety of ways.
The Mountaineers plated the first run of the game on a single by Landon Wallace, which drove in JJ Wetherholt, who led off the game with a double. WVU then extended the lead to 3-0 in the second on the strength of a fielder’s choice on a ball in play by Logan Sauve, and a wild pitch that allowed Sauve to score.
West Virginia’s advantage grew to four runs on a fielder’s choice with the base loaded in the third, and then to five on a sacrifice fly by Wallace in the fourth inning. Wetherholt was robbed of extra bases two innings later, but the flyout drove in a run to put West Virginia on top 6-1.
The game completely changed after that.
Reliever Keegan Allen failed to retire any of the three batters he faced in the bottom of the sixth. Noah Short then surrendered a two-run double, which allowed Penn State to pull to within three. Short recorded the first out of the frame, but was pulled one batter later. WVU’s third pitcher of the inning faced just one batter, and walked him on just five pitches with the bases juiced to plate another run. David Hagaman, the fourth pitcher of the frame for Mazey and company, struck out the first batter he faced for the second out of the inning. The score was 6-4.
With the bases still loaded, chaos ensued after that. Hagaman stumbled while fielding a dribbler up the first base line put in play by Kyle Hannon. Hagaman’s toss went over the outstretched glove of Grant Hussey, allowing two runners to score. WVU fielders scrambled to corral the live ball. A throw toward home plate from the outfield sailed well high, and caromed off the backstop to allow a third runner to score. West Virginia, however, failed to pick up the baseball, which was still live. Hannon, who never stopped running, kept rounding the bases and came all the way around to score the fourth run of the play.
It was officially ruled an RBI single, but the 70-foot dribbler that could’ve been the third out of the inning resulted in Penn State taking an 8-6 lead.
Penn State added three more runs in the seventh. Another error by West Virginia on a batted ball that didn’t leave the infield extended the inning with two outs. Two runs scored after the error was committed, putting Nittany Lions up by five.
Tevin Tucker’s 3-for-4 night at the plate became one of the lone bright spots for West Virginia. Wetherholt was held to just one hit on the night. WVU left nine runners stranded on base during the contest.
West Virginia will next travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to take on No. 18 Oklahoma State in a three-game series that begins Friday.