WVU finds missing magic just in time

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — When WVU made its run to the 2016 Big 12 Championship game, they had one intangible no other team could match. No matter how big the deficit, they came up with clutch hits in the biggest moments.

That intangible had been absent for much of the Big 12 Championship. That is until the eighth inning of May 26’s matchup with No. 1-seed Texas Tech.

With its tournament lives on the line, WVU posted nine runs in the final three innings to beat the Red Raiders, 12-7, in 10 innings, at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ball Park.

“I think what we did last year is fresh in our minds,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “There is never a thought in the dugout that we’re out of any game. We overcame an eight run deficit last year in the championship game and that’s fresh in everybody’s mind because the whole team is back. So they know when we get down it’s just a matter of sticking with it.”

Trailing 6-4, WVU’s Darius Hill led off the top of the ninth inning with a double to left field. Two batters later, Jackson Cramer lined a shot into the right field gap to score Hill. The ball got past right fielder Ryan Long and rolled to the fence. Cramer kept running and scored on the
inside the park homer to tie the game.

“That was a first for me,” Cramer said. “I’ve never had an inside the park or anything. It happened pretty fast. All I have to say is I was pretty tired afterward. It was a pretty cool moment for me just because I tied it up in a way I had never done before. It’s cool to have that moment and share it with
these guys.”

The game was still knotted at 6-6 when WVU came to bat in the top of the 10th. They quickly put two runners on with no outs. Ryan Gray then singled to right to pick up the go ahead RBI.

With the bases loaded, Texas Tech pitcher Jon Henry Gonzalez walked Cole Austin to score another run. Cramer then snatched the heart from the Red Raiders with a 3-run double down the right baseline. His five RBIs on the night set a new WVU tournament record.

“Cramer just came up so big at the end of the game,” Mazey said. “He’s earned it, he deserves it. He’s worked at it.”

The Mountaineers held a 12-6 lead going into the bottom of the 10th inning. Texas Tech loaded the bases before Josh Jung singled to knock in a run off Bradon Zarbnisky.

But that would be all Zarbnisky would give up as he got Long to hit into a double play to end the game.

“This one is tough to put into words,” Mazey said. “This is the game where you find out what your team is made of. And for us to go out there and do what we did today against that type of competition, you can’t put into words how proud I am of this team.”

Zarbnisky (6-1) picked up the win after pitching the final four innings, allowing one run, four hits and striking out three batters.

“My object was to just go out there and throw strikes,” Zarbnisky said. “If they hit it, they hit it. If they don’t they don’t. Just see what happens and let my defense work.”

WVU pounded out 17 total hits to set a new program record in the Big 12 tournament. One of those came from freshman pitcher Isaiah Kearns, who came to bat in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter with his team trailing 6-3. Just two days after pitching a complete game victory, Kearns blasted a solo homer that hit the hotel outside the stadium. It was his second homer in
only 12 at bats this
season.

“That was definitely the biggest play of the game, in my opinion,” Cramer said. “For him to come off the bench and hit a home run like that, probably the farthest ball I have ever seen hit, especially in this ballpark, I didn’t know anyone could hit a ball out that far. That definitely gave us some life.”

WVU doesn’t have much time to celebrate the win. They will face off with Oklahoma State again at 10 a.m. May 27 in another win or go home scenario. If they defeat the Cowboys, the two teams will play each other again at 5 p.m. with the winner advancing to the championship finale.

“You want to play your best baseball at the end of the season. This three game stretch is the best we’ve played this whole year,” Mazey said. “That’s a testament to our team. I really like where we are at. If you play against the Mountaineers right now, you are going to have to pitch pretty well. For us to win this thing, we are going to need some superb pitching from here on out. But our guys are ready.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

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