(Photo by WVU athletics)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY — Like most college kids, Isaiah Kearns doesn’t function well in the morning.
So when WVU’s 5:30 a.m. wake-up call came May 24, he was not a happy camper.
However, Kearns may have to put the theory that he is not a morning person to bed after his performance in WVU’s 11-1 run-rule victory over Baylor in the first game of the Big 12 Championships at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
“You’re getting ready to find out that Isaiah Kearns does not give you the impression that he’s a morning guy, but apparently he is, because that’s as good a pitching performance as the Mountaineers have had this entire season,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “To go out and do what he did today, and coming off a short week, it enabled us to get through the first game without using any of the bullpen and turn around our weekend starters. It’s just unbelievable what he did today and kudos to him.”
Kearns (5-0) allowed one run and three hits and struck out six in eight innings of work. He also didn’t give up any free bases as he ended the day with no walk.
“The game plan was to not let them hit the ball,” Kearns said. “Sometimes it happens. Fly ball outs are outs. We will take them. My mind set was to command the zone and throw strikes and get ahead in counts.”
WVU (33-22) will face No. 8 seed Oklahoma State (27-25) at 5 p.m. today in the winner’s bracket. The Cowboys shut out No. 1 Texas Tech, 3-0, to advance.
The Mountaineers and Cowboys have met three times this season with WVU winning two of them, on the road. However, all three games were close as WVU outscored OSU, 16-14.
The only advantage Mazey sees, though, is his team being able to sleep in.
“Believe it or not, that’s a huge incentive for these kids,” Mazey said. “To win the game, you get to sleep in the next day. You have a 6 a.m. breakfast for these kids, that’s pretty tough.”
WVU didn’t waste any time putting pressure on Baylor pitcher Nick Lewis. Kyle Gray and Ivan Gonzalez singled to start the bottom of the first.
Shea Langeliers then hit a pop up to center field that allowed Gray to score from third. That was the first of an avalanche of runs to come.
Kyle Davis, Braden Zarbnisky and Jimmy Galusky each knocked in a run on three consecutive hits off Lewis. Then Gray came back to the plate with the bases loaded. He sent a line drive down the right field line and into the corner for a three-run triple.
When the first inning finally ended, the Mountaineers had plated seven runs on six hits. It was the type of offensive explosion WVU hoped for to jump start the Big 12 tourney.
“I think it was not only big for the rest of the game, but I think for the rest of the tournament,” Galusky said. “It kind of got us started off on the right foot. It will kind of help us down the road, give us some confidence going into tomorrow.”
WVU was back at it in the third, when Galusky drove in another run, with a single to center field. But instead of that being the start of another big inning, the Mountaineers ran themselves out of the inning by getting caught twice trying to steal second base.
Kearns continued to sail through the Bears’ lineup with ease. Through five innings he had allowed two hits and zero runs. He wasn’t playing like a freshman making his first postseason start.
“I think at the end of the year, freshman, seniors, I think it’s all completely irrelevant,” Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez said. “They’ve gone through the year. I tell freshmen, ‘You get a couple of weeks to be a freshman, then after that you’re baseball players.’ I think he did a really good job.”
Kearns didn’t allow a run until the seventh inning. That was the only blemish on his stat line for the day.
The Mountaineers put the game away in the bottom of the eighth with a walk-off RBI single by Cole Austin.
Going back to last season, this was the fourth straight game the team posted nine runs in Big 12 tournament action.
Galusky led the offensive charge as he went
3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Gray was
2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored. WVU pounded out 14 hits.
“We prepare for every game,” Galusky said. “Going into every game we’re ready. Maybe this one we were a little more prepared.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com
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