The fabulous freshman Mikey Kluska has done it again.
The shortstop from White Sulphur Springs gave West Virginia baseball the last ounce of offense it needed to edge No. 7 Texas Tech in Morgantown, 6-5.
Kevin Brophy started the bottom of the ninth off with a single to right field, forcing Texas Tech to put five men in the infield. Austin Davis stepped up next and beat the shift with a slap bunt into the outfield, allowing Tyler Doanes to load the bases with a walk on the next at-bat.
Kluska then got the chance to win it with the bases loaded and no outs, and he capitalized with a grounder to first baseman Cole Stilwell, who tried to make the play at home to catcher Braxton Fulford. The Red Raider couldn’t get his foot on the plate, allowing pinch runner Ben Abernathy to cross for the game-winning run, while Kluska was credited with the fielder’s choice RBI.
“I had confidence going up there,” he said. “I haven’t been hitting my best these past few games so I’ve just been honestly trying to not think about anything and just go up there and just be reactive and just do what I do and try and hit it, so that was kind of my approach.”
West Virginia’s overall offensive performance was a marked improvement from the series opener, as Hudson Byorick sent Tyler Doanes home on another fielder’s choice in the first inning. WVU added to its lead in the second, adding two more runs on four hits.
Texas Tech started putting the bat on the ball in the fourth and fifth innings, putting a run on the board in each — but the Red Raiders started to come back in the sixth as they took advantage of West Virginia pitching mistakes. The Mountaineers hit four batters in the sixth inning and walked another two, giving the Red Raiders the runners they needed to put three runs on the board and take the lead — as two of those runs were scored by HBP and walk.
“I didn’t have the ball in my hand, but the guy that did obviously didn’t have a very good outing out there,” said WVU skipper Randy Mazey. “It’s one of those things, I talk to them all the time about limiting the amount of free bases we give them…usually if you give a team like that 13 free bases, there’s little to no chance you’re going to win that game, but fortunately we grinded and we battled offensively and ended up scoring one more than they did.”
The Mountaineers tied it back up in the bottom of the eighth when Victor Scott scored off an RBI single from Paul McIntosh, setting WVU up for the fateful ninth inning to come.
WVU gave Red Raider starter Micah Dallas one of his toughest outings of the season in his fifth start of 2021. Dallas gave his team 5.1 innings of work but allowed seven hits (a season-high) and four runs, three of which were earned.
Sublette (4-1) got the game under control for 2.2 innings until the ninth, when he gave up his only run and two hits of the game — plays which consequently led to the Mountaineer victory, and his first loss of the season.
Adam Tulloch had arguably his strongest outing since March, allowing two earned runs on five hits with two strikeouts in 4.0 innings on the rubber. Zach Ottinger took the mound in the fifth for an inning and allowed a three runs without a hit, but the bullpen trio of Noah Short, Skylar Gonzalez and Jacob Watters held the Red Raiders scoreless with just one hit and six strikeouts for the final four innings. Watters (2-0) was credited with the win.
Kluska’s RBI in the ninth was actually his second of the contest, as he scored Brophy with a single in the first. The freshman finished 1-for-5 for the game.
Brophy, Davis and Dominic Ragazzo each had multi-hit games, while Brophy added a double and Davis added an RBI.
Cal Conley and Easton Murrell each had multi-hit games for Texas Tech, with each poking a pair of hits and an RBI.
The series finale is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday, as WVU lefty Ben Hampton (3-0, 3.10 ERA) is slated to square off against fellow southpaw Mason Montgomery (1-1, 4.13 ERA). The game will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.