By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – Coach Randy Mazey admits to having nightmares. The night before the Big 12 Baseball Tournament began, the West Virginia skipper had a dream about the hottest pitcher on the conference not making it out of the first inning.
Mazey won’t say he had superpowers, but when Michael Grove went down in the first inning with an apparent injury against No. 5 seed Oklahoma, it looked like his nightmare had come true. However, hos Mountaineers were able to overcome the setback and blanked the Sooners 6-0 Wednesday at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The fourth-seeded WVU has now won 15 of its last 18 games and will face No. 1 Texas Tech at 4 p.m. Thursday.
‘We have all the confidence in the world in guys,” KC Huth said. “We’re just having fun now. Everybody is going out there and playing a big role in the game. Everybody is having fun and the confidence level is really high right now.”
The first inning couldn’t have started any worse for the Mountaineers. After Grove gave up a double to start the game, he collapsed to the ground tagging out Oklahoma’s Ben Hollis up the first base line.
“You won’t believe this, but when I went to bed last night I thought please, Michael Grove get through the first inning,” Mazey said. “I was worried about anything that could possibly happen. All that stuff went through my mind and when it happened, it was like, are you kidding me.”
After staying on the ground holding his right knee for a couple of minutes, Grove walked back to the mound to test out the injury. After a few test throws and sprints, the team decided to pull Grove and replace him with Ross Vance.
“AS soon as he went down, I heard my name,” Vance said. “First thing I thought about was that 9Grove) came in the first inning the last time we played them and ran it and how cool would it be if I could do that for him to.”
Vance quickly found himself in a jam with runners on first and third with two outs. But the senior lefty got Cody Thomas to ground out to end the inning scoreless.
The Mountaineers got something going in bottom of the second inning when they loaded the bases on the Sooners Jake Irvin. However, Irvin battled his way out of the situation by striking out both Jimmy Galusky and Kyle Davis.
Cole Austin finally got WVU on the board with a RBI single up the middle in the bottom of the third. Ray Guerrini tried to added to the score a few pitches later by stealing home. But Irvin was able to snuff out the attempt and Guerrini was tagged out to end the inning.
The Mountaineers offense kept applying pressure. Forcing Irving to go deep in the pitching count, stealing bases and being unpredictable at the plate allowed WVU to keep putting runners on base.
In the bottom of the fourth, Davis was at the plate with runners on first and second. The sophomore clubbed a 3-run homer the centerfield fence to put WVU up 4-0. It was the ninth homer of the year for the Ohio native.
“I saw the centerfielder just stop running,” Davis said. “I saw it land and I was like, ‘wow, that will work.’ It was a great momentum boost for us.”
Vance was nearly unhittable from the time he jumped into the game. In his 8.2 innings of work, he allowed one hit, no runs and kept the Sooners off balance.
Vance got help from a stellar defense that made plays to keep Oklahoma from gaining any momentum. That included a diving catch by centerfielder Huth in the top of the fourth inning.
“I feel like I was able to keep my pitches down,” Vance said. “The ones I left up they hit it right at somebody. So it was a little bit of luck today, a little bit of good pitching and a lot of good defense.”
Note: Mazey didn’t know how severe Grove’s injury to hos knee was at the end of the game. The freshman was taken for test, but Mazey wouldn’t speculate on the severity.
“His knee was acting up when I went out there,” Mazey said. “Ofcoure with a knee, you think the worst. ACL or meniscus or something like that. He’s a super talented kid who is just a freshman. Whether there was any damage in there or not, I wasn’t going to take that chance.”