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West Virginia senior Jackson Wolf took the mound Wednesday in the bottom against Texas less than a week after a 5.1-inning performance during the Mountaineers’ 5-4 win in Austin. A day after WVU needed three relievers across 7.2 innings to complete an 8-7 win over Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament’s single elimination portion, WVU needed the very best from the 6-foot-7 left-hander against David Pierce’s Big 12 regular season champion.
Wolf delivered a complete game, five-hitter against a Texas team ranked No 2 in the nation by D1Baseball. Mountaineer head coach Randy Mazey sent the senior starter back to the mound with over 100 pitches in the eighth after squashing a threat in the seventh. He retired six of the next seven hitters, with a 4-6-3 double play on his 138th pitch ending the 5-1 upset victory.
“I thought he pitched really well,” Pierce said of Wolf. “When he missed, he had good misses. Does a nice job of throwing his fastball on both sides of the plate, and a very competitive slider. We just couldn’t get anything going.”
Texas left fielder Eric Kennedy’s solo home run in the sixth provided the only Longhorn run.
Longhorn hitters helped Wolf extinguish their best rally in the seventh inning via a baserunning mistake. With shortstop Trey Faltine at the plate and right fielder Douglas Hodo III on first, third baseman Cam Williams took his lead at second base. He extended his lead when Wolf lifted his right leg, but the lanky lefty turned back toward second with an inside move. He fired a throw to the second baseman, who applied the tag on Williams before he reached the bag for the second out of the inning.
“It’s not even acceptable,” Pierce said. “You can’t get picked off in that situation.”
The Longhorns eventually loaded the bases for Kennedy, but he could not replicate the results of his earlier opposite field blast. He softly floated a ball to the Mountaineer third baseman to end the threat, with one third of the work done by Williams’ baserunning blunder to end the half-inning.
Wolf faced the minimum in four of nine innings on Wednesday. Opponents hit .204 against him all season. Texas was 5-for-29 against him at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, good for a mark of .172.
Pierce said it was “obvious” the phase of the game that didn’t show up was the offense. Center fielder Mike Antico, who finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base, said his team failed to make adjustments against Wolf throughout the course of the game.
“It’s a quick smack in the face,” center fielder Mike Antico said. “It’s tournament baseball, so something we’ve got to get used to. And it’s better it happens now than next weekend, know what I mean?”
Next weekend is the regional round of the NCAA Tournament. Texas is a lock to be a host as well as a top eight seed after taking the conference’s regular season crown, and the results of the Big 12 Tournament are unlikely to impact that status. But the team set out to win the Big 12 Tournament, and silent bats aren’t what they wanted to get in the opening game in OKC.
“You want to be hot going into regionals and you want to be playing your best,” Pierce said. “I’ve been in these situations where we’ve gone 0-2, tore through a regional, tore through a super regional, and played really well in Omaha. It’s frustrating when you’re playing well and then it just feels like a phase of our game didn’t show up today.”
Ty Madden took the hill for the Longhorns and again surrendered an early home run to a West Virginia hitter. He left a 3-2 fastball up to Hudson Byorick in the top of the second that was sent over the left field fence to give WVU a 1-0 lead.
Mountaineer hitters added two more runs in the top of the fifth when Alec Burns singled, Kevin Brophy doubled, and Tyler Doanes drove in Burns with a sacrifice fly. Next at bat, Brophy scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0.
Madden took his fourth loss of the year in a 6.2-inning outing. He allowed three earned runs on three hits, striking out five, walking two, and throwing two wild pitches.
Hazey was not going to bring in another pitcher to relieve Wolf in the later portions of the game unless he absolutely had to, so West Virginia sought insurance runs in the ninth inning. WVU scratched two across versus Tanner Witt when Brophy drove in Burns with a triple, and then scored on yet another wild pitch.
Wolfe needed 15 pitches in the ninth to send Texas to the loser’s bracket, and dealt Pierce his fourth straight defeat in Oklahoma City dating back to 2017. Texas faces the loser of the first-round game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with first pitch scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.
“I think in the big picture our kids are tough, they’re resilient, they’re going to be ticked about it, and now they’ve just got to go to work,” Pierce said.