GRANVILLE, W.Va. – In the era of the pitch clock, baseball players have to adjust their routines in order to stay in junction with pace-of-play standards. Though there is another side to that coin, one that requires patience, and a little sense of humor, when Mother Nature has a say in how long a game will take.
The 12th-ranked Mountaineers successfully battled the elements of rain and time in a 9-3 victory over Oklahoma Sunday afternoon at Monongalia County Ballpark en route to their fourth-straight Big 12 series win. Due to a lengthy delay, the game concluded almost six-and-a-half hours after its 11:00 a.m. first pitch.
“[Our] natural tendency when you’re sitting [in a delay] with a six-run lead is [that] you can relax,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “I don’t think our guys did that. I think they know that we have a lot to play for, so the last six innings were going to be really important.”
J.J. Wetherholt (2-for-4) jump-started the Mountaineer offense with an opposite-field, solo home run in the home half of the first inning. Wetherholt’s homer, his team-leading 13th this season, puts him in sole possession of fifth place on the Big 12 home-run leaderboard. He also extended his reached-base streak to 50 consecutive games.
Sooner starter Carter Campbell awarded West Virginia a prime opportunity in the second inning by suffering three free bases. Campbell hit Dayne Leonard and Grant Hussey on back-to-back pitches. Following a sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position, Ellis Garcia drew a walk to load the bases for Logan Sauve (2-for-4) with one out. Sauve worked a 2-2 count before doubling down the left-field line to score all three baserunners. Tevin Tucker drove in Sauve with another double, and the Mountaineers held a quick 5-0 lead.
Leonard was plunked later in the game, which set the program single-season record for hit-by-pitches with 90 on the year. The Mountaineer backstop has been beaned 18 times this season.
Hussey added his own RBI double, the team’s third of the game, for an insurance run in the third inning and a 6-0 lead. Moments later, at 12:06 p.m., and with rain falling heavily, the game entered a rain delay that lasted over three-and-a-half hours.
Concessions closed. Droves of fans exited the ballpark. The few dogs in attendance took their naps, but what did the WVU team do in the clubhouse for over three hours?
“We’ve been shaving our heads recently,” Noah Short said. “Usually one person goes every game, so we had a couple freshmen here shaving their heads, which is pretty cool to do during a rain delay when you’re wasting a couple hours.”
Sauve continued his success at the plate post-delay when he blasted a solo homer to extend WVU’s lead.
“We didn’t hit at all in the cage [during the delay],” Sauve said. “I just got the bat weight and got loose. My approach is [that] I always go into the box and try to hit the first-pitch fastball that I get. Fortunately, I got one.”
Pitcher Blaine Traxel, inactive Sunday after pitching Saturday, was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct while celebrating the home run due to momentarily bringing a prop onto the field. His availability for next week’s games is unknown at this point.
Robby Porco started the game on the mound for WVU. Porco did not allow an earned run in just over two innings of work, largely because reliever Noah Short and catcher Dayne Leonard combined for a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play that negated Porco’s baserunners. Short earned the win Sunday, and his record improves to 3-0.
“It’s hard sometimes, you know, not touching the mound, and then coming in for some of the biggest outs of the game,” Short said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned from some teammates before me that have given me some good tips. [The key] is just staying locked-in, and focusing on that one pitch, because that could be my last pitch of the day.”
The Sooners rallied for three runs in the fifth inning off Grant Siegel, but the Mountaineers responded with two of their own in the seventh. Hussey (2-for-3) added his second RBI of the game with a single. Freshman relievers Maxx Yehl and David Hagaman combined for over four innings of scoreless relief to carry the WVU to victory.
The Mountaineers have their third and final meeting with Pitt Wednesday night in the Steel City before hosting Texas Tech next weekend for a three-game series at Monongalia County Ballpark.