Baseball stock

GRANVILLE, W.Va. – A teary-eyed Kevin Brophy said it best.

“Baseball is a weird sport. Anything can really happen,” Brophy, the West Virginia University junior third baseman, said.

For six hours, a near two-hour rain delay and 377 pitches, the Mountaineers looked destined to advance to the NCAA Tournament Regional finals.

With a full-count, the bases loaded and Texas A&M down to its last strike, Bryce Blaum changed all that on pitch 378.

Blaum turned on a hanging slider and sent it over the left-field wall for a walk-off grand slam to stun and end top-seeded West Virginia’s season with an 11-10 win in a marathon NCAA Baseball Tournament Regional elimination game Saturday at Monongalia County Ballpark.

The No. 2-seed Aggies erased a 9-1 deficit, which made jaws drop and Mountaineers collapse in shock and agony as Blaum stomped on home plate surrounded by his euphoric teammates.

Texas A&M (39-22-1) was the home team and had the last at-bat to align with NCAA rules for the regional.

“It sucks when the field you have been working hard on for four years and you get walked-off on and watch someone else celebrate,” said West Virginia senior Darius Hill. “That’s the way it works.”

The Aggies first put a dent into its substantial deficit with its first grand slam in a six-run seventh inning. Logan Foster sent a pitch the opposite way down the right field line to cut the lead to 9-7.

After the Mountaineers answered with an insurance run in the eighth when Brophy hit an RBI single up the middle, Texas A&M failed to capitalize despite bringing the tying run to the plate.

Foster led off the ninth inning with a double and the two other Aggies, Aaron Walters and Braden Shewmake, loaded the bases by drawing a walk.

“We didn’t get a stop for five innings, then just like that we score six and breathe life back into the dugout,” Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said. “I’m proud of our team’s toughness and resiliency for staying in it, making it a game and then finding a way there in the end. It was about trying to set up an inning. One guy was not going to get us back into the game. We had to do it as a collective group and take advantage of mistakes.”

West Virginia (38-22) made plenty of self-inflicted mistakes in the field, committing four errors in the final five innings. The errors made life difficult on relievers Zach Ottinger and Sam Kessler. The pair surrendered all 11 runs but two were unearned.

“(Sam) was the victim of all the defensive miscues,” West Virginia coach Randy Mazey said. “It’s just unfortunate it all happened when it happened. Our kids threw their heart on the field.”

Play was suspended because of rain for one hour and 57 minutes with no outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Mountaineers had built a 4-0 lead over Texas A&M prior to the delay.

Brophy hit a two-run homer to left field to open the scoring in the top of the second inning. That lead was doubled to 4-0 in the top of the fourth inning as TJ Lake led off with a line-drive single that got past Aggies’ left fielder Cam Blake for a two-base error. Tevin Tucker hit a run-scoring double down the left-field line and scored when a throw sailed over first base on Austin Davis’ sacrifice bunt.

Davis was making the start in center field for the Mountaineers after the regular starter, Brandon White, suffered a scary injury at the beginning of Saturday night’s winners’ bracket game against Duke. Trying to make a catch on a deep fly ball, White dove head first into the wall. He remained motionless for several minutes and was checked out before remaining in the game.

Despite the score, it ended what was a frustrating day at the plate early for the Aggies. They had runners at second and third in the first inning with one out and failed to score. The leadoff batter in the second, third and fourth innings all reached base safely and none crossed home plate.

West Virginia starting pitcher Ryan Bergert, who went three scoreless innings, was pulled when play picked back up after the delay.

“What if I’m speechless,” Mazey said when asked to make an opening statement following the game. “It’s hard to make an opening statement when you’re speechless. I don’t know if you can add to the sting anymore to what exists at this point.”

Staff Writer

Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.

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