The No. 19 Texas Longhorns (30-15, 12-4 Big 12) came back from down 6-3 to defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers (20-19, 4-9 Big 12) by the final score of 11-6 Friday night at Monongalia County Ballpark in Morgantown, WV. A six-run seventh inning and four no-hit innings of relief from Matthew Whelan helped the Longhorns mount another late comeback win on the season.
After a 1-2-3 inning for West Virginia, Texas ace Nolan Kingham got the start and took the mound for the ‘Horns. Kingham would give up the first run of the ballgame in the first inning after allowing the first two batters to respectively record a single and a triple. Kingham would strand a runner at third, getting the next three Mountaineers to pop up, strike out, and ground-out to end the first.
Scoring wouldn’t open again until the third inning. After Kingham labored through the second, the Texas pitcher ran into more trouble in the third. Two singles with one out put WVU runners on the corners. A failed pick-off attempt from Kingham to first base resulted in error that scored the runner from third, pushing the WVU lead to 2-0. After a 51 minute lightning delay, play would resume, and Kingham would get out of the inning without surrendurring another run.
The Longhorns would finally get on the board in the fourth inning. After another lightning delay (this one only 36 minutes), Zach Zubia would draw a walk with two outs. David Hamilton would then belt a triple to left center field, coring Zubia from first and cutting the Texas deficit in half. Ryan Reynolds would single to drive in Hamilton, erasing the two run WVU lead and knotting the game up at two apiece before Petrinsky would fly out to center field to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, West Virginia would retake the lead off of Nolan Kingham and the Longhorns. The Mountaineers would start the inning with a lead-off walk, and the second batter would reach base on a throwing error from David Hamilton. The next two Mountaineers would record a double and a single, bringing home three WVU runners in the process and pushing the lead to 5-2, WVU.
Texas would answer back in the top of the sixth inning. After a a Hamilton single to open up the inning, Duke Ellis would eventually bring him home on an RBI single. After McKenzie and Shaw consecutive pop ups to end the inning, the lead was cut to 5-3.
After an erratic day on the mound, Kingham would be pulled in favor of Bryce Elder to begin the sixth inning. Friday night’s start is just another mixed bag result in what’s been an unexpected roller coaster season from the pre-season Golden Spikes Award watch listee.
Nolan Kingham: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R (3 ER), 5 BB, 5 K, 28 Batters faced
Elder’s appearance was brief, though, as he only managed to face two batters and failed to record an out. After issuing a lead-off walk, the WVU runner stole second to put himself in scoring position. Sure enough, a weak single up the middle would score the Mountaineer, and increase the WVU lead to 6-3. Manager David Pierce had seen enough from Elder in just two batters faced to pull him, and chose Matthew Whelan to replace him on the mound, hoping to slow down the Mountaineer scoring.
And boy did he slow them down. Whelan wasted no time getting out of the sixth inning. After getting the first out on a pop up, the runner at first was thrown out at second trying to steal, and the last out came via swinging strike out.
Following Whelan’s dominating inning of work, the Longhonrs offense caught fire in the top of the seventh. After two hit-by-pitches to start the inning from Masen Hibbeler and Kody Clemens, Zach Zubia would reach on a fielding error to load the bases with no outs. The Mountaineers, in response, would change out their pitchers to try to halt the the Longhorn impending scoring barrage.
But, like the declining rate of dependence on coal, there was no stop to be had.
David Hamilton would continue to forge his great day at the plate with a single through the left that would score one. Reynolds followed with a ground-rule double, scoring two more Longhorns. A Petrinsky single would plate two more, and a Duke Ellis double would set up a Tate Shaw SAC RBI with a deep pop up to left field. After a Kody Clemens strike out, the inning was over, but the damage was done - in the seventh inning, the Longhorns scored six runs off of four hits, three walks, and one error. The Longhorns now held the lead at 9-6.
The next two scoring plays each came in the next two innings. In the eighth, a Ryan Reynolds single would score Austin Todd from second base, who was pinch running for Zach Zubia. And in the ninth inning, the ‘Horns added one more for good measure with a Masen Hibbeler solo HR to left field.
All the meanwhile, Matthew Whelan was shutting down the opposing WVU hitters like they were West Virginia public schools. In his four innings of relief, Whelan didn’t allow a single hit, only walked one, and struck out seven, including striking out the side in the eighth inning. Whelan completely closed the door on any kind of WVU comeback, as Pierce and the Longhorns rode his arm to the last inning, where he would get the first win of his career in utterly stellar fashion.
Though this game may not have been as comfortable as many Longhorns fans expected or hoped, a ton of variables were in play that probably impacted this young team. With the weather (two separate weather delays), field (slick turf made balls in play dangerous and caused a ton of errors), and of course just the sheer distance from home in what will be the furthest road game of the regular season are all reasons to expect inconsistent or below average play at some point in the series.
It may have taken the ‘Horns a little while to get things rolling in last night’s game. But when they finally did, it sure was a fun sight to see. Their late comeback in West Virginia was a country road that’s been traveled before, as it marked the twelfth time UT has mounted a come from behind victory on the season.
On top of it being a thrilling victory in itself, last night’s win was also huge for conference play. With OSU winning and with TCU upsetting Texas Tech last night, OSU and UT have begun to separate themselves from the field a little bit with just a handful of games left down the stretch. Thanks to our friends at Occupy Left Field, we’re able to see the Big 12 standings after Friday’s action.
Happy Saturday, folks ...— Occupy LF (@OccupyLF) April 28, 2018
30-15 looks pretty.
Texas was once 9-9, but has gone 21-6 since then. pic.twitter.com/idXqjaaI2A
Looking ahead, Texas will resume play in Morgantown with an early afternoon game slated to start at 3:00 PM Central. You can listen to this game on 104.9 The Horn FM, or stream the game live from WVUSports.com.