COURTESY: KU Sports Information
BECKLEY, W.Va. – Something had to give in a scoreless tussle between undefeated Kansas starter Thomas Taylor and West Virginia’s reigning National Pitcher of the Week Harrison Musgrave. The Mountaineers ace got a timely RBI triple from Brady Wilson in the eighth and finished his second-consecutive complete game shutout to hand the Jayhawks a 1-0 defeat at Epling Stadium Friday night.
Taylor (4-1) was tagged with the game’s only run with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning as Wilson’s triple pushed across Taylor Munden and was saddled with his first loss despite another quality outing. Musgrave (6-1) ran his scoreless innings streak to 25.0 and limited Kansas (25-16, 9-7 Big 12) to just four hits – three via bunt singles – to help the Mountaineers (25-18, 7-6 Big 12) escape with a Big 12 series-opening victory for the fifth time in five tries.
“It was a typical Friday night in the Big 12 Conference – both guys were really special,” Kansas head coach Ritch Price said. “Musgrave is as good as advertised. I think that’s his third 1-0 win in conference play, but at the same time I’m really proud of the way Taylor competed.
“They had a few runners on base early in the game and he was able to get the third out a few different times and was able to keep it scoreless into the eighth. I thought he gave us an outstanding performance and an opportunity to win.”
Kansas couldn’t seem to figure out Musgrave, the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s pick for top pitcher in college baseball last week after shutting out Texas and leading candidate for a repeat after this weekend. The sophomore from Bridgeport, W.Va., retired six in a row to start the game before Kansas used bunt singles by Connor McKay and Ka’iana Eldredge to start the third inning. A failed sacrifice attempt saw the lead runner thrown out at third and Musgrave retired the next two batters to end the threat.
Kansas’ next chance didn’t come until the eighth, when McKay led off with another bunt hit and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Eldredge. McKay stole third and Tucker Tharp walked to put men on the corners with just one out, but Musgrave foiled KU’s plans again with a strikeout and by inducing a pop-out.
“We had two opportunities to score and couldn’t get one sac bunt down, then had runners in scoring position at first and third and weren’t able to put the ball in play,” Price said. “I tip my cap to (Musgrave). I thought (we) had an opportunity to put us ahead there in the eighth and their guy made a huge pitch.”
West Virginia had multiple opportunities with runners on base against Taylor, but the senior from Overland Park, Kan., was able to wiggle away from most of the threats. Taylor worked around runners in scoring position in the second, fourth and fifth innings before the Mountaineers finally broke through with the triple in the eighth after Taylor had walked Munden.
Alex DeLeon logged KU’s only swinging hit in the top of the seventh by dropping a single in front of the right fielder. He finished 1-for-4, with McKay (2-for-3) and Eldredge (1-for-2) accounting for the Jayhawks only other hits.
Billy Fleming went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles, and Wilson finished the game 2-for-3 with the lone RBI.
Kansas relief ace Jordan Piche cleaned up a little mess with a runner in scoring position and one out in the eighth by inducing a ground ball out and striking out the WVU clean-up hitter. The effort dropped his era to 0.46 on the season.
Due to a forecast calling for rain in the area Sunday, both teams agreed to play a doubleheader Saturday with two nine-inning contests to be played at Noon and 3 p.m. (CT). The Jayhawks will start Wes Benjamin (4-4, 4.50) against the Mountaineer’s Dan Dierdorff (2-5, 4.78) in game one and will likely start Frank Duncan (3-4, 4.45) game two against West Virginia’s John Means (3-2, 3.05)