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Seven-Run Eighth Glides WVU Baseball to Easy 15-4 Victory Over K-State

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Mountaineers (30-20, 11-10) put on a hitting clinic tonight, as they topped Kansas State (27-24, 8-13) 15-4.

The Mountaineers never trailed, and the major moves started with WVU’s lead-off batter Austin Davis. The right fielder singled and subsequently stole second to start the game. Two pitches into JJ Wetherholt’s at-bat, the freshman soared a ball over the wall in left center, bringing the top of the West Virginia order safely home in the first.

On the mound, WVU’s right-handed ace Jacob Watters faced 12 batters through his first three innings of work. He kept the Kansas State offense nearly stagnant, forcing two strikeouts, a groundout, and a trio of fly-outs. While he was holding down the fort on defense, the West Virginia offense hit around Kansas State right-handed starter Blake Adams. The team added a five-run inning in the third, batting the entire way through the order.

Back-to-back walks of Davis and Wetherholt kicked off the inning, and a Victor Scott bunt moved everyone forward a base. With the bases loaded and no outs on the board, clean-up batter McGwire Holbrook stepped up to face Adams. He smoked a 3RBI double into left field, plating the entire base path. Adams saw Braden Barry next and allowed the left fielder a single and a stolen base. Holbrook stood at third and Barry at second, perfect positioning for Dayne Leonard to come in and wipe the bases clean next. A single up the middle was all it took to send Holbrook and Barry home for the game’s sixth and seventh Mountaineer runs. Up 7-0 in the third, West Virginia hit a cooling period.

The fourth inning was devoid of runs from either side, and Adams shut WVU down in 1-2-3 fashion. Kansas State plated a pair in the top of the fifth inning to cut the deficit to 7-2. A 2RBI double from Dominic Johnson added what would eventually be half of the game’s Wildcat runs. He brought in Brady Day from second and Josh Nicoloff from third with the hit on Watters. That proved Watters’ final inning of work; through five, Watters allowed a stingy two runs on four hits. He collected three strikeouts through 90 pitches and 23 batters faced.

His replacement, righty Carlson Reed, shut the Wildcats down in the sixth in true reliever fashion. Unfortunately, the sentiment was echoed by the Kansas State defense. WVU couldn’t get the bats going in their side of the sixth or the seventh. Kansas State had a brief rally in the top of seven, at the expense of WVU fielding. Cash Rugely started off the inning with a single, but two wild pitches moved him seamlessly to third base. Johnson singled into center field, easily scoring Rugely the remaining 90 feet.

An 8-3 Mountaineer lead would prove sufficient, but West Virginia’s affinity for high-scoring innings continued in the eighth. Adams was relieved after 122 pitches by sophomore righty Ben Weber, but the pitching change did little to dull the Mountaineer hitting onslaught. Through his seven innings of work, Adams allowed eight runs on 11 hits and gave up a pair of walks. His seven strikeouts lead both pitching staffs, but the 34 Mountaineers he saw tonight put together big numbers. Adams’ replacement, Weber faced Grant Hussey to begin his night on the mound and promptly hit the first baseman on the ankle. A Tevin Tucker bunt and a throwing error later, Hussey stood at third and Tucker at second. Weber’s night was over after 0.0 innings; right-handed reliever Elijah Dale took his place.

Three straight singles from the top of the West Virginia order later, and the bases were juiced. Davis scored Hussey. Wetherholt scored Tucker from second. Scott’s single, the final of the hitting parade, scored Davis and sent Wetherholt to second.

Dale sent Holbrook a wild pitch next, and K-State catcher Raphael Pelletier let the ball out of his sight and into the backstop. The slip allowed Wetherholt and Scott a free base each, and West Virginia chugged along. Holbrook’s at-bat became a walk, effectively loading the bases with no outs. Barry, who ended the night 1-for-5, used a fielder’s choice to get aboard and score Wetherholt. Scott moved a bag closer and Barry stood across the infield. Up to the plate with runners on the corners stepped Kevin Dowdell. The right-handed two-way player came into tonight hitting .200 and trying to live up to his clutch late-game standard.

The first pitch Dowdell saw out of Dale’s glove, he sent yard. Over right center it flew, and Dowdell trotted home behind Scott and Barry for the Mountaineers’ 13th, 14th, and 15th runs. A 15-3 lead looked as though it would stand, but the Wildcats rallied together a single ninth inning score to close the scoring chasm to 11. Freshman right-handed closer Will Watson came in for the final three outs, but K-State took advantage of the youth. Watson gave up back-to-back singles to Day and Johnson before a third single, from Dylan Phillips, scored the game’s final run. Phillips singled through the left side and Day scored to post a 15-4 final under the lights at Monongalia County Ballpark.

WVU’s 15 runs came from as many hits, a team-leading trio of which came from Wetherholt, while K-State’s four runs came from 11 hits. West Virginia’s 15 runs tonight marked the fourth time this ball club has achieved that kind of scoring potential in 2022, and the win signified a now-15-5 record in 2022 games following a loss. Tonight was a testament to the power of the West Virginia lineup. Zero errors on defense, and six stranded on the base path is a clean way to head into the postseason next week. Watters earned the win tonight (3-6), while K-State starter Adams’ seven inning left him with a sixth season loss (5-6).

These two conference foes will meet again for the middle game tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. West Virginia’s Ben Hampton will see the mound and K-State is expected to send out German Fajardo.

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