After dropping game one 7-3 against Kansas (18-25, 3-11 Big 12) on Friday, West Virginia (25-16, 8-6) was back in action Saturday afternoon. With winds over 25 miles an hour, the ball was flying all over Hoglund Ballpark. The Mountaineer’s bats caught fire this afternoon which helped propel them over the Jayhawks, defeating them 10-7.
Grant Hussey led the offensive onslaught going 3-5 scoring 2 R and 2 RBI on the day. Chris Sleeper got the win going three full innings allowing four hits, two runs and walking three. He improves to 3-4 on the year. Chase Smith picked up the save, going 2.2 innings while not allowing a hit and striking out one.
Payton Allen was awarded the loss, going one inning and allowing three runs on three hits while walking one.
Ben Hampton was the starter on the bump for the Mountaineers Saturday afternoon and struggled against the Jayhawks lineup going 3.1 innings, allowing seven hits, five runs, which were all earned, and walked one batter.
On the other side, Cole Larsen was the hurler for the Jayhawks. He also struggled in the elements Saturday afternoon as he went four innings allowing five hits and six runs, while walking five batters. He also allowed three long balls.
The Mountaineers quickly jumped on Larsen as JJ Wetherholt and Victor Scott hit back-to-back doubles to give the Mountaineers an early one-run lead in the top half of the first inning.
With just one out in the inning, Scott stole third base which gave West Virginia the opportunity to tack on another run. After McGwire Holbrook popped out to second Nathan Blasick worked a five-pitch walk.
Blasick moved up 90 feet to second on a stolen base to put runners at second and third. But Braden Barry flew out to left field to strand two runners in scoring position.
Ben Hampton was on the bump for West Virginia. The Kansas bats continued to impress this weekend as three straight one-out singles tied the game up for the Jayhawks in the bottom half of the first inning thanks to Caleb Upshaw’s RBI single. Shortly thereafter Jack Hammond drove in Maui Ahuna to give Kansas their first lead of the day.
But after that, Hampton was able to work through the hitting barrage of Kansas and get out of the first inning down one.
West Virginia did not wait long to strike back as Grant Hussey hit his team-leading seventh home run of the season to right field to knot things up at two.
After a painless bottom half of the second inning, the Mountaineers retook the lead in the top half of the third inning as Holbrook crushed a no-doubt solo shot with two outs in the inning.
But just like in the first inning, that lead did not hold up as Dylen Ditzenberger continued his stellar weekend by mashing a hanging breaking ball over the right-center field fence. Upshaw followed up the homer with a double but Hampton worked out of the inning as Tom Lichty flew out to left field.
The Mountaineers came into the top of the fourth inning with the bottom of the order up. Larsen proceeded to walk the bottom two men in the West Virginia order to flip the lineup over to Austin Davis with just one out in the inning. Davis made Larsen pay as he deposited a three-run jack into left field to give the Mountaineers a three-run lead.
Kansas began to chip away at the West Virginia lead right away in the bottom of the fourth as Cooper McMurray hit a leadoff home run to cut the lead down to two.
After coming back nicely from the home run by striking out the next batter Hampton faced, he walked Sergio Rivera which would mark the end of the line for Hampton in this one.
Chris Sleeper came into relief for Hampton, and the lead evaporated for West Virginia.
Tavian Josenberger singled which put runners at the corners. Ditzenberger drove a ball high in the air to left-center field. Barry tried to make a play on it and catch it but it fell into the gap for a double which allowed Rivera to score. Kansas tied the game up at six as Ahuna grounded out. Larsen made it just one batter into the fifth inning as he walked Holbrook before getting pulled. Payton Allen came into pitch for the Jayhawks and after allowing one hit in the inning was able to turn a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
McMurray hit his second home run of the game to left field in the bottom half of the fifth inning with two outs to give the Jayhawks a one-run lead.
The lead for Kansas just like all of their other leads in the game. Short-lived. Davis hit an RBI double to set up runners at second and third with no outs. That would mark the end of the day for Allen.
Stone Hewlett came into the game to try and tightrope out of danger. After striking out Wetherholt to get the first out of the inning Scott legged out an infield single to give the Mountaineers yet another one-run lead. They tacked on another run off of a wild pitch which allowed Davis to score from third and Scott to advance 90 feet to second base.
After Sleeper made it through the Kansas order in the bottom half of the seventh inning painlessly, West Virginia looked to add some insurance late in the ballgame in the seventh inning.
Hussey started the Mountaineer half of the seventh inning with a leadoff single which forced Kansas to make yet another pitching change bringing in Knolton Clark. On the first batter that Clark faced, Mikey Kluska hit a blooper into right field which put two runners on with nobody out in the inning. But Clark rebounded nicely setting down the next two batters he faced, including a strikeout of Davis.
That would then bring in Kolby Dougan to try to get out of the top of the seventh jam. But immediately after coming into the game, Dougan plunked Wetherholt which loaded the bases. Dougan quickly recovered from the hit by a pitch to get Scott to pop out to Ditzenberg and strand the bases loaded.
Sleeper came out for his third inning of work but things did not go as planned for the freshman righty. He gave up a leadoff double to Upshaw and then a wild pitch moved him up 90 feet. The next hitter, Lichty, grounded one right back to Sleeper and that caught Upshaw in a rundown. Even though the Mountaineers got Upshaw out, it still advanced the other two runners on base into scoring position.
After intentionally walking McMurray that would mark the end of Sleeper’s day. Chase Smith would come in to try to strand the bases loaded. Smith threw three straight balls before getting Jake English to ground into a taylor-made 4-6-3 double play to promptly end the inning.
Kansas’ top half of the order provided little help in the bottom of the eighth inning. Hussey started off the top of the ninth inning with a bang, hitting his second home run of the game, adding a much-needed insurance run as the Mountaineers took a three-run lead into the bottom half of the ninth.
Smith came back into the game and shut down the Jayhawks’ offense in the bottom half of the inning.
Overall, West Virginia ended the day with 10 runs on 13 hits and one error while Kansas scored seven runs on 11 hits and committed one error on the day.
The rubber match of the three-game set is set for 1:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon back at Hoglund Ballpark.