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Kearns HRs; WVU wins again

Courtesy of West Virginia Athletics
WVU Rallies in Ninth, Beats No. 3 Texas Tech in 10th

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 26, 2017) – Trailing by two runs, the West Virginia University baseball team rallied to tie the game in the ninth inning and win it with a six-run 10th inning against No. 3 Texas Tech on Friday afternoon at the 2017 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City.

On a warm, sun-soaked day at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, the Mountaineers (34-23) erased a 6-3 deficit with a run in the eighth inning and two in the ninth to tie the game at 6-6. WVU then scored six runs in the 10th inning to beat the top-seeded Red Raiders (43-15).

Highlights | Postgame Quotes

Senior first baseman Jackson Cramer scored the game-tying run in the ninth inning on an RBI single and three-base error. He followed it up with a three-RBI triple in the 10th inning. Cramer’s five RBIs in the contest are the most by a Mountaineer in program history at the Big 12 Championship.

With the win, West Virginia improved to 2-1 at this year’s championship, 8-7 all-time in the event and 2-0 against Texas Tech. WVU also improved to 10-6 this season against top-25 opponents.

The Mountaineers, seeded fourth, advance to play eight-seeded Oklahoma State tomorrow in the semifinals at 10 a.m. ET/9 a.m. CT. If WVU beats the 2-0 Cowboys, a second game will be played at 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. CT, with the winner advancing to Sunday’s championship game.

“That one is tough to put into words,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “What a grind. Before the game, we talked about this being the toughest game in any conference tournament or regional. The first loser’s bracket game, when you’re coming off a loss, playing a team coming off a win, this is the game where you find out what your team is made of. For us to go out there and do what we did tonight, against that type of competition, you just can’t even put into words how proud I am of this team.

“We got some big hits. (Jackson) Cramer just came up so big at the end of the game. He’s earned it. He deserved it. He’s worked at it. If I had to do it over again, I never would have sent you to the plate on that inside-the-parker. We played great defense. You want to play your best baseball at the end of the season. This three-game stretch (at the Big 12 Championship) is the best that we’ve played this whole year. That’s a testament to our team, and the fact that our slogan going into the season was ‘we’re on a mission’ to make the postseason. Goal number one I think has been achieved, so we’re going to have to re-focus and set another maybe.”

WVU’s rally began in the eighth inning, with a towering home run by freshman pinch-hitter Isaiah Kearns. In just his 12th at-bat of the season, Kearns launched a solo home run over the left-field scoreboard and out of the ballpark. That cut the TTU lead to 6-4, and sent the WVU dugout into a frenzy that helped complete the comeback in the ninth inning.

The ninth began with sophomore right fielder Darius Hill’s leadoff double down the left-field line. After a groundout, Cramer singled to right field. With Hill rounding third, the ball was misplayed in right field and rolled all the way to the wall, allowing Cramer to circle the bases and slide home safely just ahead of the throw.

Tied at 6-6, sophomore designated hitter/right-handed reliever Braden Zarbnisky followed with a perfect bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

West Virginia wasted no time keeping the bats going in the 10th inning, with a walk and a single to put two runners on with no outs. Sophomore second baseman Kyle Gray followed with a single to bring home the first run and give WVU its first lead of the game, 7-6. Gray’s single was his second hit of the day and drove in his third run of the game.

A bases-loaded walk to sophomore third baseman Cole Austin brought in the eighth run, and the eventual game-winning tally. Cramer then doubled down the right-field line, clearing the bases. A Zarbnisky single with two outs closed out the inning and put WVU ahead, 12-6.

Texas Tech loaded the bases with no outs in the 10th and scored one run, but Zarbnisky got a pop-up and a double play to end the game.

Zarbnisky improved to 6-1 on the season, earning his team-leading sixth victory. While pitching a season-long 4.0 innings, he allowed a run on four hits with three strikeouts and a walk.

The Mountaineers stranded two runners on base in the first and third innings, and freshman right-handed starter Alek Manoah struck out a pair in the first and second, before Texas Tech took a 2-0 lead in the third inning.

A single and a walk was followed by a two-RBI double to open the inning. Manoah walked the bases loaded with one out, but escaped further damage by getting two flyouts to end the threat.

West Virginia answered right back though with two runs in the fourth to tie the game at 2-2. The rally began with two outs, when sophomore shortstop Jimmy Galusky singled to left and freshman center fielder TJ Lake followed with a single up the middle to advance Galusky to third. Gray then sent a ball down the right-field line to triple and bring both runs home.

Manoah struck out two more in the fourth inning before the Red Raiders answered with two runs on two hits in the fifth. A two-RBI single with two outs brought in both runs, before freshman reliever Ryan McDonald got the final out of the inning to strand a pair of runners.

McDonald pitched a scoreless sixth, and West Virginia answered with a run in the seventh. Hill walked, and after a double, Cramer’s sacrifice fly scored Hill.

That cut the WVU deficit to 4-3, but TTU answered right back with a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning. Ryan Long’s home run to center extended Tech’s lead to 6-3 before Zarbnisky got the three outs, with two strikeouts, to strand two runners on base.

Kearns’ mammoth home run in the top of the eighth inning, a shot that cleared the scoreboard in left field and left the ballpark, made it a 6-4 ballgame before WVU’s 2-run ninth inning tied it and the six-run 10th won it.

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