Mountaineers, Jayhawks to clash in Tuesday’s Big 12 Championship opener

Gold and Blue Nation

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. The eighth-seeded West Virginia University baseball team opens postseason play at the 2021 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship on Tuesday, May 25, against No. 9-seed Kansas at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. ET.

Fans can listen to the game on the Mountaineer Sports Network from Learfield IMG College on 100.9 WZST-FM, as well as various affiliates throughout the state, the TuneIn Radio App and WVUsports.com. Additionally, the contest can be seen live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. For links to live stats, audio and video, visit WVUsports.com.

Freshman right-hander Carlson Reed (4-4, 5.64 ERA) gets the ball for the Mountaineers in the single-elimination matchup, while Kansas counters with redshirt junior right-hander Cole Larsen (5-5, 3.55 ERA). The winner of Tuesday’s opening game advances to take on No. 1-seed Texas to begin the double-elimination tournament on Wednesday.

WVU (23-25, 8-16 Big 12) is 15-11 all-time against the Jayhawks (30-26, 8-16 Big 12), including 2-1 this season. The Mountaineers opened Big 12 play by taking two-of-three games over KU on March 26-27, in Morgantown. Additionally, West Virginia is 2-1 against Kansas at the Big 12 Championship. Most recently, the Mountaineers topped KU, 12-8, on May 22, 2019, in Oklahoma City.

Last time out, WVU closed the 2021 regular season by dropping two-of-three games at No. 2 Texas, from May 20-22, in Austin. West Virginia earned a 5-4 triumph in the series opener, marking the highest-ranked win in program history. It also extended the Mountaineers’ season-long win streak to six games. From there, Texas took the final two games of the series, 14-3 and 12-2 in eight innings.

Senior left-handed pitcher Jackson Wolf earned the win over the Longhorns in Game 1 of the series, his fifth of the year, while sophomore right-hander Jacob Watters nailed down his fourth save. The Mountaineers hit three homers in the opener, as freshman infielder/designated hitter Nathan Blasick, senior catcher/outfielder Paul McIntosh and fifth-year senior infielder Kevin Brophy all went yard in the win.

The big fly was one of two for Brophy on the weekend. In all, the Randolph, New Jersey, native led the way at the plate by finishing 3-for-8 (.375) with two homers, two runs scored and four RBI in the three-game set.

Junior outfielder Austin Davis continues to lead the Mountaineers with a .317 average this season, while Brophy and McIntosh co-lead the club with eight home runs. McIntosh also shares the team lead in RBI with sophomore catcher/infielder Matt McCormick (26).

On the base paths, a pair of Mountaineers rank inside the top five of the Big 12 in stolen bases. Sophomore outfielder Victor Scott is No. 2 in the conference with 18 stolen bases, while Davis ranks No. 4 with 16 on the year.

Reed, who is making his sixth start of the year on Tuesday, has allowed only three total runs with 15 strikeouts in his last three outings, totaling 13.2 innings of work. As a whole, the West Virginia pitching staff enters the week ranked No. 14 nationally and No. 2 in the Big 12 in strikeouts per nine innings (10.7).

West Virginia is 13-12 all-time in Big 12 Championship play. The squad reached the Championship Game in 2019, the last time the event was held, and is one of two teams to reach the semifinals in each of the last four tournaments played (2016-19). 

Kansas is led by 19th-year coach Ritch Price. The Jayhawks finished the regular season with a 30-26 mark, including 8-16 in Big 12 play. The club fell in two-of-three games at Texas Tech last weekend to cap regular-season action.

Redshirt junior infielder Skyler Messinger leads the Jayhawks at the plate this season. His .327 average, 68 hits, 19 doubles and 39 RBI all rank No. 1 on the club. Meanwhile, redshirt senior infielder James Cosentino’s six homers are good for the team lead.

On the mound, Larsen is 5-5 with a team-best ERA of 3.55 in 91.1 innings of work.

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