OKLAHOMA CITY - For the fourth consecutive season, the No. 17 West Virginia University baseball team advanced to the Big 12 Championship Semifinals, with a 5-1 victory over No. 7 Texas Tech on Thursday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
The fourth-seeded Mountaineers (36-18) improved to 2-0 at the postseason event thanks to another dominating start by junior right-hander Alek Manoah, who held the top-seeded Red Raiders (37-16) to one run on four hits with 10 strikeouts and a walk in 8.0 innings pitched.
WVU scored its five runs on eight hits, beginning with two in the fourth, half an inning after TTU took a 1-0 lead and scored its lone run of the game. West Virginia added two more in the eighth and a final insurance run in the ninth inning.
"We kind of knew going into it, with AK (Manoah) versus (Texas Tech starting pitcher Caleb) Killian, that it was going to be a game just like that," WVU coach Randy Mazey said. "The over-under was going to be really low on that game, and it held true to form. Both of those guys are really, really good. Killian's been really good his whole career here. He's really hard to hit, and when we scored in (the fourth inning), I heard (senior outfielder) Darius Hill yell out of the dugout, 'It's taken us three years, but we've finally scored off this guy.' He's that good, but our guys are grinders. AK is just an unbelievable grinder. He throws to Pudge (senior catcher Ivan Gonzalez) all the time, he's an unbelievable grinder. It's just the make-up and the chemistry of our team, and you guys are seeing it, the kind of kids we have."
West Virginia advanced to Saturday's semifinals and were set to play the winner of Friday afternoon's game between Texas Tech and fifth-seeded Kansas in an elimination game.
Manoah's outing was his seventh double-digit strikeout performance and 11th quality start in 15 starts this season. While the leadoff batter reached in five of the first six innings, Manoah held Texas Tech hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Offensively for the Mountaineers, senior right fielder Darius Hill and junior center fielder Brandon White each had a hit, an RBI and a run scored. Hill drove in White for the game-tying run in the fourth inning and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly on the next pitch. White added two highlight-reel, run-saving catches in center and threw out a runner at third. Junior third baseman Kevin Brophy led the team with two hits.
Manoah escaped his first jam of the night in the first inning, as a leadoff single and one-out walk put two on. However, a fielder's choice and strikeout ended the inning. In the second, White threw out a runner at third who attempted to take an extra base on a stolen base with an errant throw to help Manoah face the minimum.
Texas Tech took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a sacrifice fly with runners on second and third with one out. However, Manoah got a groundout to end the inning and limit the damage.
The Mountaineers wasted no time answering with two runs in the top of the fourth to take a 2-1 lead. White was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and scored on Hill's triple. Junior first baseman Marques Inman then drove in Hill with a sacrifice fly.
TTU put two on with one out in the bottom half, but Manoah kept the WVU lead intact with back-to-back strikeouts. He got a line-drive double play and a strikeout to face the minimum in the fifth and stranded a runner on third in the sixth, as White made the first of two fantastic diving catches to end the inning.
In the seventh, White made another fantastic catch with one out and a runner on, as Manoah added a strikeout and got out of the inning with a fielder's choice groundout.
West Virginia added two insurance runs in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by freshman shortstop Tevin Tucker and an RBI single by White. As Brophy and junior left fielder TJ Lake scored, WVU's lead was extended to 4-1.
Manoah's night concluded with two final strikeouts in the eighth inning.
WVU extended its lead to 5-1 in the ninth inning, as senior catcher Ivan Gonzalez doubled home freshman pinch runner Austin Davis.
Junior right-hander Sam Kessler relieved Manoah to start the ninth and pitched a 1-2-3 frame to complete the victory.