Kansas starter Thomas Taylor retired 18 straight WVU hitters at one point.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -West Virginia was let down by just about every facet of its game Thursday night and lost its opener in the Big 12 baseball tournament to sixth-seeded Kansas 7-2.Mountaineer pitchers gave up 12 hits, the hitters managed just seven and the defense committed three errors. It all added up to a lopsided loss to a team WVU had beaten three times in one-run games during the regular season.The loss comes after West Virginia's coaches and players had spent much of the three previous days trying to help tornado victims in the Oklahoma City suburbs. First-year coach Randy Mazey, who led those efforts by his team, refused to point to it as a distraction."We teach our guys all the time to avoid distractions and we have been here a long time this week,'' Mazey said. "But the community service work had no part in what happened on the field. I thought our guys were very focused going into the game.''
The third-seeded Mountaineers (31-26) put themselves in a hole with the loss, but it was far from a lethal blow. In the pool-play format, WVU still has games with No. 7 seed TCU at 5 p.m. (EDT) today and No. 2 seed Oklahoma State Saturday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The winners of the two pools meet Sunday for the tournament championship and the automatic NCAA tournament berth that goes with it.The Mountaineers have yet to use their ace. Big 12 pitcher of the year Harrison Musgrave (8-1, 2.14 ERA) will start for WVU today against TCU.Instead of Musgrave, Mazey elected to start senior Dan Dierdorff against Kansas. Dierdorff pitched fairly well for much of his seven-inning stint, but was victimized by bad breaks - including his own first-inning fielding woes - and was overmatched by KU's Thomas Taylor."I thought Dan Dierdorff was as good as he's been all season,'' Mazey said.Taylor (6-2) was magnificent, giving up just a second-inning run and retiring 18 Mountaineers in a row at one point. He gave up just four hits in 71/3 innings - all in the first two frames - and helped the Jayhawks snap a six-game losing streak.
"That guy is hard to beat. He is really good. He doesn't do anything flashy or special," Mazey said. "If you're a young pitcher and want to watch how to pitch, it's command of your fastball and throwing your off-speed pitches for strikes. He had a lot of command of his fastball and it's hard to hit when a guy does that."Dierdorff (4-8) ran into trouble right away when Justin Protacio doubled on the second pitch of the game and then Dierdorff compounded matters with his fielding. First, he threw high to third trying to get Protacio on a bunt by Kevin Kuntz, leaving both safe. Then, when Michael Suiter also bunted, Dierdorff misplayed it, scoring Protacio. Two outs later, Dakota Smith singled in a run to give the Jayhawks a 2-0 lead."I felt like I got off the mound all right and 99 out of 100 times I make both of those plays. That was the one time I didn't," Dierdorff said. "I thought I was making good pitches, but those guys were putting good swings on them."West Virginia got one of the runs back in the second inning when light-hitting shortstop Michael Constantini drove in Billy Fleming, who had walked. At that point the Mountaineers still had runners on second and third, one out, the top of the order up and the opportunity to get something more going. But that's when Taylor suddenly became unhittable.He retired the next two hitters to get out of the second, and before his streak ended he would retire 18 in a row and get the Jayhawks into the eighth inning with a 6-1 lead. Along the way Kansas (32-24) added two more runs in the seventh on an RBI bunt by Koontz and a run-scoring single by Suiter, then got a two-run double from Tucker Tharp in the top of the eighth.Taylor's retired-batters streak was snapped when he hit Bobby Boyd with a pitch in the eighth and then walked Brady Wilson. That was it for Taylor, who left the game in the hands of closer Jordan Piche, the Big 12 newcomer of the year.
Jacob Rice greeted Piche with a single to left to score Boyd to make it 6-2, then cleanup hitter Ryan Tuntland's single loaded the bases with one out for Big 12 home run leader Ryan McBroom. But McBroom lined into a double play to end the inning and that was the Mountaineers' last real chance.Dierdorff lasted seven innings and gave up nine hits. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter, but gave up the four runs. Josh Harlow pitched the eighth and gave up two runs and Corey Holmes pitched the ninth and gave up a run on a wild pitch.