MORGANTOWN — In China they call it lingchi, which translated becomes “Death by a Thousand Cuts.”
It is a form of execution-first practice the late Qing Dynasty used for only the most heinous of crimes.
In Oklahoma City on Wednesday, lingchi was given a slightly different translation as No. 4 seed West Virginia turned it into what seemed like “Death by a Thousand Bunts” en route to beating fifth-seeded Kansas, 12-8, to advance to the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination Big 12 Tournament.
By winning, WVU advances to play top-seeded Texas Tech, a 7-4 winner over No. 8 seed Kansas State, at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Now, it’s true that WVU registered 17 hits in its victory with designated hitter Paul McIntosh collecting three of them with four RBIs. That would hardly seem to indicate any kind of torture, Chinese or otherwise, but the bunt was the key weapon for newly-named Big 12 Coach of the Year Randy Mazey’s team.
The moment of truth was a bunt — a rare, perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt by Brandon White that scored two runs. Yes, you read that right. White drove in four runs in the game — three of them on squeeze bunts.
But that has been a trademark of this team all season, this of “Death by a Thousand Cuts.”
Whatever the Mountaineers need to win games having posted 35 wins against 18 losses this season.
“It’s a fun team to coach because of all the different things we can do, but the most fun thing about this team is everyone on the team helps us win games,” Mazey said before the Big 12 Tournament started. “That’s pretty rare, when every position player has a role and every pitcher has a role and they accept those roles and try to be as good as they can be at them.”
White’s role has been to play defense, run the bases and do whatever he can on offense. That was what he did in this game.
He made what appeared to be a great catch that was overturned after a long look at the replay. Then, White made a leaping catch against the fence to end another Kansas scoring chance, singled to drive in the game’s first run and had those two squeeze bunts.
“Brandon White is the best center fielder I have ever coached in 30 years,” Mazey said. “We’re a little bit guilty of every time the ball goes up in his direction it’s going to get caught because it usually does.
“He actually thought he caught the (first one), but it obviously hit the ground. But the guy changes games with his defense.”
But let us go to the moment of truth that arose in the seventh inning.
After the first WVU batters got on base to open the game and WVU built a 9-1 lead through three innings, KU came back against starter Nick Snyder to cut it to 10-8. Tevin Tucker singled and took third on Tyler Doanes’ single. Doanes then stole second base to get White to the plate with one out.
Mazey put on a play he loves to use — runners at second and third, both with speed and a good bunter at the plate. He started the runners and then White laid down a perfect bunt that rolled down the first base line.
Kansas let the ball roll, hoping it would go foul, but it stayed straight. KU’s first baseman finally picked it up and stepped on the bag to retire White before he threw home. But it was too late to retire Doanes, who scored all the way from second base.
It was a daring play that could have backfired.
“It has to be the right situation,” Mazey explained. “You have to have the right personnel and we had exactly the right personnel in place to run that play. That’s why we are who we are. We run and put pressure on the defense.
“We really, really needed those two runs at the time. Looking back on it, who cares if you get them with a double or a bunt down the first base line. Two runs is two runs when it’s late in the game.”
Earlier in the third inning the Mountaineers scored a run on three consecutive bunts by Tucker, Doanes and White.
“Death by a Thousand Bunts,” indeed.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.