060219 p1b WVU Mazza.jpg

West Virginia baseball coach Randy Mazey exclaims after getting ejected from Saturday’s game against Duke during the NCAA Regional tournament at Monongalia County Ballpark.

MORGANTOWN — Within the span of 24 hours No. 15 West Virginia went from ecstasy to agony when it dropping a 4-0 decision to Duke before another sellout crowd.

But as mad as the crowd at Monongalia Couny Ballpark were over the umpiring, it were not as mad as WVU coach Randy Mazey. Mazey was ejected for the first time in four years by an umpiring crew that seemed to be taking the term "men in blue" as if it made them honorary members of the Blue Devils.

Mazey's ejection came after a series of calls he disagreed with on a force play at the plate that ended the fourth inning without Duke scoring. Losing pitcher Alek Manoah made a nice play, throwing home as the bases were loaded with two outs on the board.

The runner was ruled out, but Duke challenged and the play was overturned on what seemed to be inconclusive evidence to set Mazey off.

West Virginia now slips into the loser's bracket and has to play dangerous Texas A&M at noon on Sunday. To survive, the Mountaineers would have to rally in a 6 p.m. rematch with Duke later that night.

If they lose to Duke, they are out and the Blue Devils move on to the Super Regional. If they win, they will still play Duke again for the Regional championship at 4 p.m. on Monday.

The second-straight sellout crowd was in a celebratory mood, and why not?

A night earlier, WVU had set an all-time home baseball attendance record as it beat Fordham in the first NCAA Regional game held in Morgantown since 1955. What's more, the opponent on this night was Duke, not Texas A&M as expected, and the Mountaineers were facing the Blue Devils with college baseball's arguably best pitcher — Alex Manoah — on the mound.

Certainly, there was a lot of pressure on Manoah: the baseball draft is being held on Monday and he is penciled in as a high first-round pick. There were also a bus load of major league scouts in the stands watching his every move.

However, Manoah maintained that wasn't on his mind.

"I don't think about it until people talk to me about it," Manoah said this week. "I just stay in the moment. I truly believe there is nothing I can do to control the draft. Other people are out there setting up the draft."

But Manoah is an emotional athlete and the worst thing you can do in an important game of baseball is get too hyped up.

"He just need Alek to be Alek," Mazey said heading into the game. "The only time he hasn't pitched well this year is when he tends to try to do more than he should. Adrenaline is great if a football player trying to knock someone's head off. In baseball it doesn't work that way. It leads to over-swinging and overthrowing."

But the way the evening worked out, there was no flow to the game at all with long delays for replays and injury and arguments and Manoah just wasn't himself.

He gave up a two runs in a first inning in which there was a near disaster. With two out and no one on, Manoah gave up a double to Matt Mervis that was followed by a drive to deep centerfield by Michael Rothenberg.

Center fielder Brandon White tried to make another of his miracle, day saving catches but just as he got to the ball running full speed ahead he crashed neck and shoulder first into the centerfield, crumpling the ground.

He lay motionless on the warning track as first the trainer, then teammates, then the team doctor joined him out there. He slowly sat up as the brought a cart out and sent a replacement for him out onto the field, but White wasn't about to leave this game.

He played catch briefly with Manoah and stunned everyone by staying on the field.

As the game went on, WVU's bats were being silenced by right-hander Bryce Jarvis and his change up while seeming every close pitch, every close play went against the Mountaineers, almost as if baseball official John Higgins was working the game.

Mazey had been chirping for a good part of the game and then things came undone in the third inning. Normally solid in his control, Manoah was out of sorts and walked the bases loaded while striking out two.

The game was at a turning point.

Erikson Nichols hit a slow bouncer between the mound and the third base line. Manoah made good play just getting to the ball, whirled and made an off balance throw to the plate that short-hopped catcher Ivan Gonzalez.

Gonzalez made a nice grab of the ball for what seemed to be a force out and that was how it was called.

It was a close play and Duke opted to challenge what seemed to be the lone play in the game that had gone WVU's way. After an endless delay, the umpires reversed themselves although replay did not seem to be conclusive.

That's when Mazey lost it and was ejected. After another long delay to argue, Chris Crabtree singled and the fourth run was home for Duke.

Manoah kept it at 4-0 until the seventh when he was relieved by Dillon Meadows, having allowed four runs on four hits with nine strikeouts and four walks and a pair of wild pitches.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter at @bhertzel.

Recommended for you