As the final outs were recorded Friday night in Lexington, ESPN+ color commentator Todd Walker repeated a few times that the final score did not reflect the competitiveness of the entire game.
West Virginia and head coach Randy Mazey would agree, but in the end, the No. 2-seed Mountaineers dropped their first-round game in the Lexington Regional 12-6 to No. 3 Indiana at Kentucky Proud Park.
The Mountaineers committed two errors, walked eight batters, and went 0-for-11 at the plate with runners in scoring position in a losing effort that saw them take two separate leads.
“When you play 60 games, one of them has to be the worst game of the year defensively,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “It’s just a shame it happened [to us] tonight.”
Left fielder Landon Wallace provided the lone hit of the first two innings for WVU, but it went a long way both in distance and in meaning. Wallace launched a solo homer in his first at-bat for a 1-0 Mountaineer lead, but it would not last.
Blaine Traxel earned the opening-round start after not pitching in the Big 12 Tournament. Traxel started strong, recording four strikeouts in his first six outs. In the second inning, an error by Tevin Tucker extended the Hoosiers’ at-bats and allowed two unearned runs to score.
Three of Traxel’s six runs allowed were unearned.
The Mountaineers quickly knotted the score at 3-3 with an RBI walk from Wallace and a sac-fly RBI from Caleb McNeely. They took their second lead of the night when Braden Barry stole home after tripling in the fourth inning for a 4-3 advantage.
Traxel surrendered another three runs in the fifth, with one registering as unearned due to his own throwing error. He finished the night with six runs allowed on six hits and three walks in 5.1 innings of work. He also struck out six Hoosiers.
Designated hitter Logan Sauve chipped into Indiana’s lead twice with an RBI double and a run-scoring groundout in his at-bats in the sixth and eighth innings. Indiana held a slim 7-6 advantage heading into the ninth inning.
Catcher Dayne Leonard (3-for-4, 2B) was the only WVU player with multiple hits Friday night. Leonard was 0-for-19 in the five previous games leading up to the NCAA Tournament.
“Those guys at the bottom [of the lineup] are swinging the bat just as good as the guys at the top,” Mazey said.
Reliever David Hagaman allowed one run in two innings of relief before taking the mound in the final inning. After recording the first out and walking two Hoosiers, Mazey opted for closer Carlson Reed in relief for Hagaman with two runners on base.
Reed registered a groundout straight out of the bullpen but with two outs, Indiana’s batting leader Brock Tibbitts laced a liner into right field, scoring two Hoosier insurance runs. To make things worse, right fielder Caleb McNeely misjudged the ball and allowed Tibbitts to reach third base. They would add three more runs off Reed and secure a 12-6 lead before inning’s end.
“If you’re going to win a Regional, you’re better players have to have good games,” Mazey said. “And that’s what we didn’t get tonight.”
Seven of Indiana’s 12 runs came with two outs.
West Virginia’s season can end Saturday with a loss to Ball State in the losers’ bracket of the Lexington Regional. The elimination game will take place at noon ET at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington on ESPN+.