Takeaways: Caleb McNeely, Ben Hampton Lead WVU Baseball to Big 12 Win
WVU baseball opened Big 12 play with an 8-3 shellacking of Kansas State on the road. Mountaineers right fielder Caleb McNeely hit for the fourth cycle in West Virginia history, while starting pitcher Ben Hampton locked in after a shaky first inning.
Caleb McNeely Hits for the Cycle
McNeely accomplished the feat in his first-ever Big 12 game, logging a single, double, triple and a home run. What’s more, all of the hits had meaning. His home run got the scoring started for West Virginia, bringing them within one in the second inning. He broke a 2-2 tie in the third with an RBI single, then increased the score to 4-2 in the fifth with an RBI double. McNeely’s one-out triple in the ninth gave the Mountaineers a chance at some breathing room, but he was called out at home on a fielder’s choice.
CYCLE!!!!!@Caleb_McNeely gets the triple to complete the first cycle for the Mountaineers since 2014!#HailWV pic.twitter.com/OOCMLG1d4j
— WVU Baseball (@WVUBaseball) April 1, 2023
He’s an excellent cleanup hitter, hitting .323 with an OPS of 1.031 that only trails superstar second baseman JJ Wetherholt among qualified hitters on the team. That his name often gets lost in the shuffle is a testament to the strength of the Mountaineers’ offense.
Hampton Locks In
Hampton allowed a pair of solo home runs in the first inning. Down 2-0 on the road on a windy day, the Wildcats could’ve pulled away fast as they sold out to swing for the fences. Instead, Hampton managed to turn the page, rebounding to retire 13 consecutive batters. He finished the day with 6.2 innings pitched, allowing three runs and punching out ten. Hampton nibbled around the strike zone, keeping hitters off balance with his curveball and nibbling at the strike zone so they couldn’t barrel up on his mid-80s fastball.
The Mountaineers stay cool in difficult situations, staying alive and turning things around when opportunity strikes.
Kansas State’s hitters took big hacks, wanting to hit every pitch out of the park. The Mountaineers stayed patient and let the game come to them, striking out just eight times in 42 plate appearances, compared to 13 in 39 for KSU. Small ball favored West Virginia—as it has all year—and the Mountaineers’ pitchers were able to take advantage of the sellout approach, sneaking pitches under aggressive swings.
That’s not to say West Virginia’s hitters didn’t dig the long ball: they hit three on the day. Their measured approach forced the Wildcats’ pitchers to actually pitch to them, though, opening opportunities to hit the ball the other way.
WVU baseball looks to take the series against Kansas State starting at 5pm Saturday.