West Virginia has won most of its games in 2022 by speeding around the base paths, but it needed just a few walks to take down Baylor on Friday.
The Mountaineers earned their third walk-off victory of the season when Baylor reliever Mason Marriott walked Nathan Blasick in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied and the bases loaded, sending Kevin Dowdell to give WVU the game-deciding 7-6 edge. That was Marriott’s (2-1) third walk of the inning, and it handed him his first loss of the season.
Blasick has been a critical piece to WVU’s several comeback wins. Skipper Randy Mazey called his number in March against Ohio State for a couple of game-saving RBIs, but this time around, he just needed to stay comfortable in the batter’s box.
“That’s his role, he’s accepted that role,” Mazey said. “Usually he’s in there with the game on the line, and he was in there tonight.”
WVU scored the first three runs of the game in the second inning as Mikey Kluska and Austin Davis drove in runs with their bats. Davis nearly scored in the first inning on a sacrifice fly, however, but a replay review showed that the speedy right fielder was out because he simply missed second base.
“We’ll get better from that,” Mazey said. “That’s more of an anomaly than anything.”
Despite the strong start, WVU spent much of the game playing catch-up. Jared McKenzie and Kyle Nevin wiped away Baylor’s three-run deficit in the top of the third with back-to-back RBI singles. The Bears then added two more insurance runs in the fourth, forcing WVU starter Jacob Watters off the mound early.
WVU designated hitter McGwire Holbrook recovered some of the damage in the bottom of that frame with a 399-foot solo home run that bounced off the scoreboard in left center field, but that was the Mountaineers’ last run until the eighth inning. Meanwhile, Baylor added one more insurance run in the sixth, from an RBI single by Casen Neumann.
Davis made up for the misstep in the eighth to spark WVU’s comeback, sliding unopposed across home plate on a double from JJ Wetherholt. Marriott came in two batters later, and a pair of errors loaded the bases for West Virginia.
In a bit of foreshadowing, Marriott walked Braden Barry, sending home the tying run.
“I think this team is just a lot of competitors, and they want to compete, and they like challenges,” Blasick said. “It’s not necessarily all about baseball, it’s about competing and winning pitches.”
Trey Braithwaite (2-0) earned his second straight Friday victory for the Mountaineers, throwing a scoreless inning to cap off a 5.2-frame effort by the bullpen to help the comeback along with Noah Short and Carlson Reed. Watters worked for 3.1 innings and allowed five runs on six hits.
“We won that game in the bullpen today,” Mazey said. “Those three guys came in and did a really good job and kept those guys right where we needed to be.”
BU starter Tyler Thomas allowed four runs on seven hits to the Mountaineers, his highest hit total of the season in eight starts. He also threw over 100 pitches for the second time this campaign.
Kluska recorded three hits on the night, while Holbrook added a double to his hit total in the second inning. Davis finished 2 for three with a pair of singles, while Victor Scott, Wetherholt and Barry each added hits.
Alex Gonzales was the only Bear to record multiple hits, finishing 2 for 4, while Nevin led the team with his two RBIs.
The Mountaineers and the Bears square off twice more over the weekend. Saturday’s clash was moved to 1 p.m. ET due to inclement weather, while Sunday’s game will also be at 1 p.m. ET. Both contests will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.