WVU Baseball Sweeps Series, Gains 14th Conference Win with 5-1 K-State Finale
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s a Senior Day Sweep at Monongalia County Ballpark as the 32-20 (13-10) West Virginia Mountaineers took down the 27-26 (8-15) Kansas State Wildcats.
Compared to the previous two games of this final Big 12 series, today’s match-up cooled both teams down significantly. On the Mountaineer mound, freshman right-handed starter Aidan Major continued his mid-week hot streak into a weekend spot, his second Big 12 start. He proved his worth early, sitting the first inning’s trio of K-State batters down in order with a groundout and two dominant strikeouts.
“Every time I step on the mound, I know if I do what I need to do to the best of my ability, I have great guys behind me,” Major said. “As long as I do that, these guys are going to make plays. They’ve done it all year and continue to do it for me on the mound…. At the end of the day, you know, going in, as long as you execute the game plan and trust your guys, you should come out on top.”
When the Mountaineer offense entered, K-State left-handed starter Dylan Phillips couldn’t keep up. He hit Austin Davis in his first at-bat of Senior Day. Junior Victor Scott bunted into a single that moved Davis forward two bags. Scott was caught stealing in a 3-6-3 double play, but while the K-State infield was loaded to the right, Davis came home easily.
Major seemed to slip in the top of the second, allowing a two-out solo home run to Kaelen Culpepper, the Wildcat freshman’s fifth. The game tied, K-State nearly added the go-ahead run a batter later. Major sent a ball toward Cole Johnson that became a solidly-hit double, but escaped the inning with a groundout aimed at Grant Hussey that the fellow freshman fielded cleanly.
When West Virginia got back on the offensive, three straight hits culminated in a pair of runs scored. Tevin Tucker singled in his first Senior Day at-bat and advanced a base on a wild pitch. Davis’ second at-bat of the afternoon became a well-hit triple that scored Tucker. It was freshman JJ Wetherholt who would come in next. Wetherholt sent a single into right field, scoring Davis for the Mountaineers’ third run.
“Any time you can get a lead early in the game, it’s to your advantage,” West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey said. “Eighty percent of baseball games, the winning team scores more runs in one inning than the other team scores overall. It happened again today.”
The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings went by without incident, though a combined nine walks were handed out. A hit apiece landed; West Virginia catcher Dayne Leonard’s fourth inning single left him eventually stranded at third, while Kansas State second baseman Orlando Salinas’ seventh inning single kept him stagnant. Major dealt the Wildcats a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, but K-State right-handed reliever Griffin Hassall echoed that outing in the seventh.
West Virginia right-handed closer Trey Braithwaite relieved fellow senior Noah Short in the eighth, issuing a four-batter inning to the now-behind-3-1 Wildcats. He recorded his sole K of Senior Day for the final out, ushering in the unusually silent middle of the Mountaineer lineup. Kansas State right-handed closer Ty Ruhl also entered in the eighth; he secured a line-out and a strikeout of McGwire Holbrook and Braden Barry, respectively. Two-out territory in the month of May has historically been a raving success for the Mountaineer hits, and today was no different.
Leonard connected on a single, but it was Hussey who put the game away. The first pitch he saw was skied out of the ballpark, his career 10th. Hussey trailed Leonard around the base path, effectively closing today’s scorecard at a 5-1 Mountaineer success. Braithwaite’s final frame of work at Monongalia County Ballpark became a dominant 1-2-3 ninth inning, and the Mountaineers set a new program-high 14 conference wins.
Put it in the record books 📖
With today's win @WVUBaseball sets a new program record with 14 @Big12Conference wins this season!#HailWV pic.twitter.com/VHgTv1mmlY
— WVU Sports (@WVUSports) May 21, 2022
West Virginia outhit the Wildcats 7-5, converting five runs to Kansas State’s single score. Major and Braithwaite saw success in their mound appearances; Major’s second Big 12 start (5IP-3H-1R-5K-79P) earned him a third win (3-0), while Braithwaite’s two innings of work added an eighth save to the repertoire. K-State’s Phillips got the short end of the stick, registering his first loss of 2022 (0-1) after only 44 pitches through three innings.
Now, the Mountaineers set their sights on Globe Life Field and an incredibly top-heavy Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship next week. This West Virginia team joins TCU (16-8), Oklahoma (15-8), and ties Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at the 14-win threshold. In the event that the Texas Longhorns (13-10) drop today’s game to the Kansas Jayhawks (4-19), five-seed West Virginia will face the four-seed at 9 a.m. CT on May 25. As of this moment, either Oklahoma State or Texas Tech will fill that spot.