WVU earned more than one prize by beating Kansas in the first game of the Big 12 Championship Wednesday morning.
The Mountaineers are now in the winner’s bracket, and that means they didn’t have an early wake-up call today.
“When the game was over, I personally thanked the guys for allowing me to sleep in [today],” said head coach Randy Mazey after a 12-8 edging of the Jayhawks. “You’d be surprised what motivates our players, and not having to get up at 5:30 a.m. [today] was a huge motivating factor.”
There will be something else motivating Mazey’s team when it faces top-seed Texas Tech this afternoon: The winner earns a spot in the semifinal round and a day off Friday.
Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Alek Manoah is the scheduled starter for the Mountaineers. Manoah leads the conference in earned run average (1.91) and strikeouts (125), a single-season record at WVU. Those numbers also place him among the top pitchers in the country, making Mazey optimistic that his ace will give WVU a shot to upend the top seed in the field.
“To have him on the mound in the winner’s bracket is really, really nice for us,” said Mazey. “Regardless of who we play, he’s a super prideful guy, so he’s gonna go out there, you know you’re gonna get his best effort and he knows the importance of winning game two. He’s the guy I want to flip the ball to in this situation 100 times out of 100.”
West Virginia (35-18, 13-11) took two of three from regular season league champ Texas Tech (37-15, 16-8) back in April at Monongalia County Ballpark. The first game, a 2-0 Mountaineer victory, marked the front end of back-to-back complete game shutouts composed by Manoah.
That April 12 shutout marked the only time this season that the Red Raiders were held scoreless in a game, and their offense has been on a tear since that series. TTU has averaged 7.77 runs per game in its last 13 contests against conference foes, going 11-2 in that stretch.
Texas Tech entered the Big 12 tournament as the league’s leader in RBIs with 384. Its .308 team batting average also ranks second behind Baylor.
The Mountaineers moved into the winner’s bracket by beating the Jayhawks in their opener, tying a program record for runs at the Big 12 Championship after Kansas nearly eliminated an early 9-1 deficit. Texas Tech commanded its opening game against eight-seed Kansas State on the way to a 7-4 triumph.
Both WVU and Texas Tech have won eight of their last nine contests overall.
First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.