GRANVILLE, W.Va.– A five-run first inning was too much for West Virginia, as the Mountaineers fell 9-5 to drop the series against Kansas on Saturday afternoon at Monongalia County Ballpark.
The Jayhawks scored five unearned runs with two outs in the top of the first courtesy of two West Virginia errors.
Kansas second baseman Justin Protacio hit a routine grounder to shortstop Taylor Munden. Munden was unable to cleanly field the ball and Protacio was safe at first.
Junior Ross Vance struck out the next batter and then walked Connor McKay. The Mountaineers intentionally walked cleanup hitter Michael Tinsley to load the bases, which appeared to be a good call when Vance fanned Kansas first baseman Blair Beck for the second out.
Dakota Smith made West Virginia pay when he drilled a two-run single to right field. Then Marcus Wheeler cleared the bases when he hit a three-run homer to left field to give the Jayhawks a 5-0 advantage.
Vance settled down after the first inning and had a solid performance on the mound. The left-hander allowed five runs, all unearned, on eight hits with nine strikeouts and two walks. He stranded nine.
“His first inning hasn’t been great all year. He fights his way through the first until he settles in,” coach Randy Mazey said. “They did a good job, scored all five with two outs. One guy had two RBIs and another guy had three, and you have to credit the offense when stuff like that happens.”
Sophomore Jackson Cramer got the Mountaineers on the board in the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run to right field.
Right fielder Shaun Wood got West Virginia back in the game when his two-run bomb to right field cut the Kansas deficit to 5-3.
The Mountaineers had a shot to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth when third baseman Justin Fox drove a fly ball to right field, but Kansas right fielder Smith caught the ball off the wall despite bobbling it. Munden was doubled up on the play after failing to tag from first.
The Jayhawks added four runs in the top of the ninth to pull ahead 9-3. Pinch hitter Joven Afenir hit a two-run double down the right field line, Justin Protacio had an RBI single to left field and Connor McKay had an RBI double to right field.
Kansas needed the insurance runs from the top half of the inning when Cramer blasted his second home run of the game, eighth of the season over the right center field wall. Wood cut the lead to 9-5 on a solo shot to right center.
Kansas starter Drew Morovick (4-3) gave up three runs on five hit with five strikeouts and one walk.
Kansas left fielder McKay went 4-for-5 and Wheeler drove in a career-high three RBIs.
The Mountaineers will look to avoid a series sweep in the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.
West Virginia will send sophomore right-hander Chad Donato (5-4) to the mound. Kansas has not announced a starter yet.