The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

May 12, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- Fleming’s cycle overshadowed by WVU loss

MORGANTOWN — Somehow, Billy Fleming deserved better.

After all, around the West Virginia University campus, so many people were celebrating their recent graduations.

And around the world, mothers everywhere were celebrating Mother’s Day, which started right down the road in Grafton.

Fleming wanted to celebrate, too, after what he had done during West Virginia’s baseball game at Kansas.

And he couldn’t.

See, you don’t celebrate in defeat ... not when so much is riding on each game West Virginia plays.

So what was it that Fleming did? Well, the junior second baseman hit for the cycle, as rare a feat as you are going to find in baseball.

Consider the odds. Going back to Curry Foley’s first cycle in 1882, there have been 304 occurrences in major league baseball, roughly as common as a no-hitter, 282 of those having been thrown.

First of all, what does it mean when you say someone has hit for the cycle?

That is a single, double, triple and home run in the same game.

It doesn’t have to be in order, but that would be a whole lot to ask, considering just how difficult it is to get four hits in a game.

Well, Fleming beat out a perfect bunt in the first inning. In the third he hit a sinking line drive to right field that right-fielder Dakota Smith gambled on, trying to making a diving catch, the ball squirting under him. By the time he could gather it in, Fleming was at third with a triple.

In the fifth inning Fleming sent a fly ball soaring deep to left field, barely clearing the left-field wall.

It was his first home run of the year.

Then, in the sixth inning he sent another fly ball in that same direction but shorter, falling safely as two outfielders converged but could not get there. This run-scoring double tied the game.

Single, triple, homer, double … and in the end it mattered not, for Kansas prevailed, 9-8, and swept the series from WVU, a sweep the Mountaineers could ill afford in their effort to make the NCAA tournament.

They had overcome a seven-game losing streak to win 11 of 13 and put themselves in position to qualify.

They had two series left, against Kansas and Texas Tech, both on the road. One win at each place would probably do it, but they lost all three games at Kansas and now must go to Lubbock, Texas, a place where the Red Raiders almost never lose, and win two of three.

But back to the cycle, for it really is an amazing feat.

Only one other time in WVU history had anyone hit for the cycle, that being Bob Spangler in 1998.

In a way, that game should carry an asterisk on it, for the opposition was, shall we say, shaky.

Coppin State was not very good, even though it was being coached by a former great major centerfielder, Paul Blair. They came to Morgantown for a game Blair had hoped to cancel but couldn’t do it.

He brought very few players and, if memory serves, only one pitcher.

The final score of the game was 34-4, so while Spangler wasn’t about to throw his cycle back like a fish that was too small to keep, it wasn’t going to gain him entry into the Hall of Fame, either.

This was different, with maybe the season on the line.

WVU was trailing, 9-8, as the ninth inning started.

With one out, Bobby Boyd singled, putting the tying run at first with Fleming coming to the plate.

He already had his cycle, plus a hard-hit out to left field in his fifth at bat, but now all of that was ancient history.

Fleming took a called strike, fouled two pitches off and then, with Kansas coming right at him, he popped out to third.

His chance to celebrate had slipped away, but the Mountaineers had one more shot, their power hitter, Ryan McBroom. Where everything had been going WVU’s way from the prior three weeks, nothing went their way this weekend and McBroom stuck out for the third time in the game, leaving five runners in scoring position and leaving WVU in a big hole in its bid for post-season play.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads