The No. 21 West Virginia University baseball team lost its first Big 12 Conference series of the season, with an 11-4 defeat at Kansas State on Sunday, April 23.
The loss snapped a string of six consecutive weekend series wins for the Mountaineers (23-15, 9-6 Big 12). WVU was the last team in the conference to lose a Big 12 series this season.
West Virginia was held to four runs on 10 hits and did not commit an error. The Wildcats (21-19, 4-11 Big 12), scored their 11 runs, all in the fifth inning or later, on 13 hits and committed two errors.
Sophomore second baseman Kyle Gray continued his hot hitting at Tointon Family Stadium, going 3-for-4 with his second career home run and two runs scored. Gray, who had three hits in all three games at K-State, was a triple short of the cycle in Sunday’s finale.
On the mound, freshman right-handed starter Alek Manoah pitched 4.0 innings and allowed one run on one hit with a strikeout and four walks. He pitched into the fifth inning and left with a 4-0 lead, but earned a no-decision for the fourth consecutive start.
K-State scored five runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-4 lead before adding two runs in the sixth, a run in the seventh and three in the eighth.
The Mountaineers had a hit in two of the first three innings, but double plays ended both frames. Through the first three innings, 18 of the game’s first 20 batters were retired.
That changed in the fourth inning, when Gray led off with his second home run of the season. Freshman center fielder Brandon White followed with a single, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored from second on a throwing error on a failed pickoff attempt by the K-State pitcher. With two outs, sophomore right fielder Darius Hill singled to right-center, advanced to third on another single, and scored on freshman catcher Chase Illig’s single.
With a 3-0 lead, Manoah gave up his first hit in the fourth inning with a leadoff single. It appeared he got out of the inning when Gray dropped a soft-hit line drive and turned a double play, but it was ruled that the line drive was caught, and the inning continued. Manoah walked the next two to load the bases, but a groundout to end the inning and keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard.
West Virginia added a run to make it 4-0 in the top of the fifth. Gray led off the inning with a double, his third hit of the day, and scored on a single up the middle by senior first baseman Jackson Cramer.
Kansas State answered with five runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 5-4 lead. Manoah hit a batter to open the fifth, and freshman righty Riley Troutt relieved him on the mound. A single and a walk loaded the bases before an RBI single brought two runs home. Freshman right-hander Kade Strowd then entered the game. A single loaded the bases again, before a bases-clearing double gave K-State the lead. Strowd got the next three outs to end the inning and keep the deficit at one run.
After a 1-2-3 top of the sixth inning, two doubles and a single in the bottom of the inning scored two runs and extended the Wildcat lead to 7-4.
White singled in the seventh, but a double play helped end the inning, before K-State added another run in the bottom half on a solo home run by Josh Rolette to make it 8-4. Senior righty Jackson Sigman relieved Strowd with one out and one on and got the final two outs of the inning.
Strowd suffered his first career loss. In 2.1 innings, he allowed four runs on seven hits with no walks and no strikeouts.
In the eighth, K-State pulled away, with three solo home runs, to make it an 11-4 game.
Illig reached on a fielding error to lead off the ninth inning and Gray walked with two outs, but the Mountaineers could do no more.
NOTES: West Virginia falls to 23-15 on the season and 13-12 on the road … The Mountaineers are in third place in the Big 12 conference with a 9-6 record … With the series loss, WVU became the last team in the Big 12 to lose a conference series, and snaps a stretch of six consecutive weekend series victories … WVU is 8-7 all-time against Kansas State and 4-5 in Manhattan, Kansas … Kyle Gray had three hits for the third consecutive day and added his second career home run … Gray was a triple shy of the cycle … Starter Alek Manoah pitched 4.0 innings and allowed one run on one hit with a strikeout and four walks.