WVU Rally Comes Up Short Against Kansas
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Kansas turned the tables on a Mountaineer team accustomed to jumping on opponents early, scoring three runs off Mountaineer starter Kade Strowd in the top of the first and holding on for a 6-5 victory on Sunday afternoon at Monongalia County Ballpark.
West Virginia (24-14, 8-7) held a 37-6 first inning scoring advantage over its foes coming into the game, but the Jayhawks hit the ball hard and on the ground right off the bat. Strowd hit the second batter of the game, Dylan Ditzenberger, and then allowed a pair of up-the-middle singles to Jaxx Groshans and Nolan Metcalf for a run. Benjamin Sems then grounded a double down the first base line and Skyler Messinger added an infield single that bounced off Strowd. Each drove home a run, giving the Jayhawks the early advantage.
West Virginia got one run back in the second when Paul McIntosh singled, went to second on a passed ball, then came home on Andrew Zitel’s double to right with none out. Zitel, however, was stranded at third despite WVU having three chances to push him home. That foreshadowed a pattern of the day, as the Mountaineers had two runners on five more times on the cloudy, cold afternoon, but failed to manufacture additional runs in all but one of those chances.
Kansas, having seized the initiative from the outset, kept WVU in check with solid defense and good pitches when threatened through the middle innings. The Mountaineers tried to build some momentum in the fourth via the hit and run with McIntosh on second and Zitel on first with one out and freshman Phillip Dull at the plate. Dull failed to make contact , however, and McIntosh was easily thrown out at third, blunting the threat. Dull then flied out to end the inning.
The Jayhawks got what proved to be the winning run in the top of the seventh, and that fatal wound was partially self-inflicted. Reliever Zach Reid got the first two outs of the inning, but then was pulled in favor of righty Zach Ottinger. Ottinger gave up back to back hits, which led to his departure, with Beau Lowery getting the ball. Lowery hit James Consentino with a pitch, and then walked Sems to force in a run.
“That was a big run to give up,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “When you get in the middle of the game and you’re behind, every run they tack on really, really matters. You’re down 5-1, you can’t go down 6-1. You have to hold them at five. We’re going to get back in the game. We do it almost every time.”
Unfortunately, WVU did allow that extra run, and it proved to be the difference in the game.
WVU again put two runners on in the seventh and couldn’t score, but finally broke through in the eighth. Ivan Gonzalez doubled to right, Hill singled him to third, and a high chopper from Marques Inman to third resulted in an infield hit that got Gonzalez to the plate. McIntosh doubled Hill home, and Kevin Brophy delivered a pinch-hit two run single to pull the Mountaineers within one. WVU had two more chances to tie the game in that inning, but a flyout and a strikeout left them one run short.
In the ninth, West Virginia again threatened, and had two runners one with two out, but another strikeout ended the game.
Lefthander Reid was West Virginia’s most effective pitcher on the day. The lefty side-armer struck out three Jayhawks in 2.1 innings after coming on in relief of starter Kade Strowd (4-4) with one out in the fifth. He inherited two runners but allowed neither to score, and he gave up just one hit against the seven batters he faced. Strowd gave up an uncharacteristic eight hits in 4.1 innings and took the loss while being tagged with five earned runs.
Hill and McIntosh each had three hits, combining for almost half of WVU’s 13. McIntosh scored two runs. The Mountaineers left eight men on base.
Kansas starter Eli Davis did not walk a batter and earned the win while moving to 4-3 on the season. He had seven strikeouts while yielding nine hits.
West Virginia remains at home for a Tuesday, April 21 game against Penn State. That contest is set to begin at 7 p.m.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
Strowd matched his season high of eight hits allowed, but walked only one batter.
“The last couple of times out he has had a lot of walks,” Mazey observed. “He usually doesn’t get hit much. Opponents’ batting average was less than .200 against him. In a weird way, I was encouraged by that.”
* * * * * *
WVU second baseman Tyler Doanes’ left foot remained in a boot on Sunday. He came out after Saturday’s rain delay in it, and was an early scratch for Sunday’s finale. Mazey said he had not spoken to medical staff yet about any prognosis for Doanes, and said an evaluation would be made before the Penn State game.
* * * * * *
West Virginia’s hitting struggles, especially in the middle innings, continued. The Mountaineers came into the game with no starter hitting better than .283. WVU did add to its eighth inning scoring total, which has been its best inning all year. WVU now has 39 runs in the eighth, as opposed to just 18 for its opponents.