Jackson Wolf may have faced one too many hitters in an otherwise masterful performance Friday evening in Manhattan, Kansas. Wolf walked the first batter he faced in the bottom of the ninth inning, who eventually came around to score the tying run that sent the game between West Virginia and the Wildcats into extra innings.
Tied at 3-3, both teams pitched scoreless tenth innings before the Mountaineers were able to scratch a run across in the top of the 11th on a throwing error by KSU’s shortstop to win the game 4-3. The game started out as a pitchers duel between West Virginia (15-16, 6-7 Big 12) and Kansas State (21-17, 4-10) as Wolf (3-4, 3.44) was matched by KSU starter Jordan Wicks (4-2, 3.48) inning for inning.
The West Virginia offense struck first when the Mountaineers were able to score three runs off Wicks in the top of the fifth inning. RBI hits by Matt McCormick, Kevin Brophy and Mikey Kluska fueled the half-inning. KSU responded with runs in the sixth and seventh to set the score at 3-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning.
At 124 pitches and showing obvious signs of fatigue, WVU coach Randy Mazey decided to send Wolf back out to begin the bottom of the ninth. After walking the first KSU batter on four pitches, however, Wolf was lifted for reliever Jacob Watter. A pair of wild pitches and a ground out allowed the Wildcats to push the tying run across and send the game into extras tied 3-3.
Wolf’s final line was three runs allowed in eight innings pitched on six hits with 10 strikeouts. Not to be outdone, Wicks’s allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings on five hits with 11 punchouts.
After an uneventful 10th inning, WVU first baseman Matt McCormick hit a double in the top of the 11th and eventually came around to score the go-ahead run on a throwing error by KSU shortstop Nick Goodwin. Watters allowed a run to get into scoring position in the bottom of the inning, but pitched out of it, giving WVU the win in the series-opener.
McCormick was the only WVU batter to finish with multiple hits, going 3 for 5 with three hits, one double, and RBI and two runs scored. Kansas State catcher Chris Ceballos went 1 for 5 with a seventh-inning home run.
Watters got the win for WVU, pitching three scoreless innings with six strikeouts and reliever Tyler Eckberg took the loss for the Wildcats.
WVU and KSU will play game two of their three-game weekend series at 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Manhattan. WVU will send sophomore Jake Carr (1-2, 10.96) to the mound to oppose KSU’s Connor McCullough (2-2, 4.56).