Baseball party spoiled by rain, losses in Morgantown
MORGANTOWN — The party’s over!
What began so well with WVU’s tournament-opening win was squashed by Duke and then a early-game rain delay of nearly two hours that submerged the Mountaineers’ chances against Texas A&M.
And WVU had two losses. The season was over. Duke bested the Aggies with another near-brilliant pitching performance to win the NCAA’s Morgantown tournament. The Blue Devils went 3-0 in the event and won their way to a Super Regional spot against the country’s second-seeded team, Vanderbil, in Nashville.
After losing to Duke on Saturday, June 1, the Mountaineers were forced into an elimination game versus Texas A&M on Sunday, June 2.
West Virginia’s freshman starting pitcher, Ryan Bergert, was moving through the Texas A&M lineup with precision. And he was given a 4-0 lead as the game reached the bottom of the fourth where the Aggies batted again. A rain storm blew through Monongalia County Ballpark and forced a delay of nearly two hours.
When play finally resumed, Bergert didn’t return. He was replaced by Zack Ottinger, another freshman who had done so well when the Mountaineers edged Texas Tech in the Big 12 Conference tournament.
Eventually, West Virginia extended its lead to 9-1 as the game went to the bottom of the seventh. Ottinger would not survive the Aggie seventh. A two-run single shaved the WVU lead to 9-3 and then Logan Foster blasted a grand slam homer to bring Texas A&M to within 9-7 of the shrinking Mountaineer lead.
Ottinger was replaced by Sam Kessler, West Virginia’s season-long closer.
Kessler got out of the seventh with two strikeouts and was handed a 10-7 lead when Kevin Brophy drove in a WVU run in the eighth.
Kessler took a three-run lead into the ninth.
Still trailing by three runs, Texas A&M loaded the bases against Kessler. There were two outs.
Kessler went to a 3-2 count on Bryce Blaum.
On Kessler’s next offering, Blaum sent a drive just inside the foul pole in right. The grand slam home run sucked all the air out of Monongalia County Ballpark. And those remaining from the original crowd of 3,788 were stunned by the lightning-quick change of events.
The Aggies had overcome a 9-1 deficit . . . and had eliminated West Virginia from post-season play with a last-second, 11-10, win over the crestfallen Mountaineers and their disbelieving fans.
The eight-run lead was gone.
The party was over! The season was finished in a flash of Aggie power.
Only a laundry list of “what if’s” was left to ponder. The rain. The injury that kept centerfielder Brandon White out of the game. The four errors the Mountaineers committed. Wasting home runs from Paul McIntosh and Kevin Brophy. The probable loss of pitcher Alek Manoah in the Major League Baseball draft.
Duke was the only team in any kind of party mood when Sunday night was completed with Blue Devil victory over Texas A&M.