MORGANTOWN — Most fans probably came out to Monongalia Ballpark on Saturday to get possibly their last glimpse at West Virginia University standout pitcher Alek Manoah on Saturday, but Duke’s Bryce Jarvis stole the show.
Jarvis dominated the Mountaineers as the Blue Devils took advantage of a Manoah’s mistakes for a 4-0 win in front of a raucous crowd for Saturday’s NCAA tournament Morgantown Regional winners bracket game.
With the loss, West Virginia is not eliminated but now must play Texas A&M at noon on Sunday for the right to try to beat the Blue Devils twice and win the region.
Duke got off to a great start against Manoah, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year. After the 6-foot-6 junior right-hander retired the first two batters, first baseman Matt Mervis connected on a double and scored on a scary play when catcher Michael Rothenberg’s long drive to center field resulted in West Virginia’s Brandon White crashing into the wall head first.
Mervis scored on the play and White remained down on the center field turf for several minutes. After an evaluation from trainers, he did, however, stay in the game. Rothenberg would later score on a wild pitch to put Duke up 2-0 after one inning.
Both pitchers cruised though the second inning before the third inning erupted with drama.
Duke loaded the bases with two outs for third baseman Erikson Nichols, who hit a bouncing ball back at Manoah. The throw home appeared to be in time for a force out to end the inning, but upon review the Blue Devils’ Joey Loperfido was ruled safe.
That set off WVU coach Randy Mazey, who was almost immediately ejected from the game when he came out to argue.
“I definitely thought it was an out,” WVU catcher Ivan Gonzalez said. “I thought I had the ball, had possession and stepped on the plate. The call didn’t go our way and you’ve just got to keep moving forward. You can’t let one call determine the game for you.”
One pitch later, with the bases still loaded, Duke designated hitter Chris Crabtree singled to center to score Mervis. Rothenberg was thrown out at home on the play, which drew another review. During that review, an unidentified Mountaineer fan jumped on top of the WVU dugout to yell at the umpires. The fan then marched the length of the dugout, flashing middle fingers toward the Duke dugout and crowd, before he was escorted out of the stadium by law enforcement.
West Virginia had perhaps its best chance to chip away at the Blue Devils’ lead in the sixth inning. Senior right fielder Darius Hill reached second when his fly ball to center field got lost in the lights and dropped with one out. He advanced to third on a passed ball, but was stranded there when first baseman Marques Inman and designated hitter Paul McIntosh both went down on strikes to Jarvis.
For the game, Jarvis finished with 11 strikeouts and one walk issued while allowing six hits and no runs over eight innings of work Saturday.
“He was mixing his pitches really well,” WVU’s Hill said. “A lot of right-handers don’t have the changeup going for rightys and leftys and he had it going both ways today. He was really keeping us off balance, then he was locating his fastball enough middle-in to keep us off the changeup. He was able to finish us at the end.”
Manoah, meanwhile, went six inning while allowing four runs on four hits with nine strikeouts and an uncharacteristic four walks.
“[Manoah was] maybe a little bit off, but he’s an ultra-competitor,” WVU assistant coach Steve Sabins said. “He’s the guy that our whole team revolves around.
“Maybe his fastball command wasn’t quite there early. Maybe he wasn’t lining his slider quite as much as he normally does.”
Sabins said he expects freshman Ryan Bergert to start on the mound for West Virginia against Texas A&M on Sunday. In his last appearance, Bergert started an elimination game against Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament last week. He went five innings, allowing one hit and no runs with four strikeouts as the Mountaineers won that game to advance to the conference championship game and, perhaps, locked themselves in as a NCAA tournament regional host.
“He threw such a gem in Oklahoma City in the Big 12 tournament,” Sabins said. “Him and [freshman pitcher Zach] Ottinger were the two freshman that went the CG [complete game] against Texas Tech for the big win that maybe cemented us hosting a regional. So those guys are still available.”