The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

May 4, 2014

Mountaineers lose pitching duel with Texas, 2-0

MORGANTOWN — The only thing lacking at Hawley Field on Saturday was a West Virginia University victory.

The house was full for No. 11 Texas’ crucial and crushing 2-0 victory over the Moutaineers, the second largest crowd in Hawley Field’s history. Among the 1,624 in attendance was former major league baseball great Roger Clemens, watching his son, Vance, play for the Longhorns, his alma mater.

And so it is that the stage is set for today’s 1 p.m. game, the rubber game in the series and the final game in Hawley Field’s 41-year history.

This one started on a tremendous high note, a number of Mountaineer alumni invited back to say goodbye to the ballpark that once was home to them, all of them going out to their positions to open the day with the pitchers in the group all throwing out ceremonial first pitches.

And then the two teams settled down into a tense, tight pitchers duel with the Mountaineers threatening time and again but unable to collect a clutch hit against Nathan Thornhill (the winner), Chad Hollingsworth or John Curtiss, who earned the save with three innings of relief work.

Ross Vance pitched a courageous game, not possessing his best stuff but working magic as a number of hard hit balls went right at WVU defenders. He worked 8.1 innings and was touched for just six hits but took his first loss of the season.

“He did fine. He gave up two runs to Texas. At Hawley Field, you do that and you expect to win the game,” said coach Randy Mazey, who saw WVU’s seven-game winning streak come to an end.

This one was so hard fought that between the eighth and ninth inning a near brawl broke out as words were exchanged in front of the Texas dugout, players from both dugouts emptying on to the field.

Nothing more than words were exchanged in the heated moment that was handled well by the umpiring crew, which restored order.

“It was just two competitive teams going after each other a little bit. It was nothing more than competitive kids being competitive kids,” Mazey said. “I was proud of our guys for standing up and didn’t back down in any way shape or form. It showed me a lot about the character of our team.

“We can’t let them feel like anyone can come in here and steamroll us, so I liked the way our guys stood up for themselves. We’re in the Big 12 and that’s Texas, with all that tradition and our guys didn’t back down in any way.”

Mazey, however, believes the incident had a negative influence on the Mountaineers’ attempt to come back in the bottom of the ninth inning.

“In that situation you still have to play baseball after it happens. They have to learn to settle down and stay within yourself. You still have to get some hits. We were down two runs,” Mazey said.

“I think we got a little out of control there. We were swinging the bats, trying to hit the ball eight miles just because we wanted to win so bad. It was a good learning experience, first time we’ve been in that situation since I’ve been here. We’ll talk about it tomorrow and learn from it and get better from it.”

WVU had runners on base every time you turned around, stranding 12.

The key moment was in the seventh when they had runners at first and second, one out and their most dangerous hitter, Ryan McBroom at the plate, ahead in the count.

He hit the ball hard, but right at the shortstop, who turned it into an inning-ending double play.

“He was ahead in the count, 3-1,” Mazey said. “Usually when your best hitter gets a 3-1 pitch he gets a good swing at it … and he did. He usually get a hit. This one just went too close to the shortstop.”

Texas, outhit 11-6 by WVU, scored single runs in the fourth and seventh innings.

Now the Mountaineers, fighting to earn a spot in postseason play, face what could be the most important game of the season, a victory over Texas to give them the series perhaps going a long way in positioning them for the NCAAs.

“Every game we play turns into the biggest game of the year at this point in the season. So much at stake, a great atmosphere, last game at Hawley Field … it sure would be nice to put the old girl to bed with a smile on her face,” Mazey said.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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