Mountaineer bats catch fire before hosting No. 10 Texas – The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast
Braden Barry was far from a home run threat before West Virginia’s three-game road trip against Kansas, but that might change as the regular season hits the home stretch.
The left fielder smashed two of West Virginia’s five home runs in the Mountaineers’ 10-8 win over the Jayhawks to take the weekend series, tripling his season total. In fact, WVU opened the weekend with 29 homers on the season and increased that mark by over 50 percent by hitting 10 more this weekend alone.
The Mountaineers scored in the opening frame of the contest, but their first two runs came in a much less pretty fashion. WVU’s first three hitters all reached base to start the game, loading the bases on KU starter Ryan Vanderhei. McGwire Holbrook hit leadoff hitter Austin Davis home from the cleanup spot, but the Jayhawks managed to pull off a double play and kill the Mountaineers’ offensive momentum.
WVU added its second run with the help of some Jayhawk blunders. Vanderhei retired the first two batters, then walked Mikey Kluska. Kluska scored on the next at-bat as Tevin Tucker hit a ball right to second baseman Tavian Josenberger, who let it go by him for an error.
Kansas snuck in front in the third and fourth innings scoring four straight runs. Nolan Metcalf sent the first run over the plate with an RBI single in the third. Jake English then recorded an RBI double in the fourth inning, and was sent home when Ryan Callahan hit a home run to give the Jayhawks a two-run lead.
That ended Zach Bravo’s day after completing just three innings of work as he was unable to get an out in the fourth.
That’s when WVU’s homer party began. Vanderhei again worked the situation to two outs, but McGwire Holbrook hit the first of three straight home runs. Nathan Blasick followed it up with a slam to right field, then Braden Barry hit his first to left, putting the Mountaineers ahead by a run.
Austin Davis gave WVU a little breathing room in the sixth with an RBI double. A walk and a single later, Ritch Price took Vanderhei (5-4) off the mound, solidifying his fourth loss of the season. Vanderhei tossed 5.3 innings and gave up six runs (five earned), while striking out seven Mountaineers.
Payton Allen, who took Saturday’s loss on the mound for KU, added an RBI in the sixth to cut the deficit back to one run, but it wasn’t enough to preempt later two-run homers by Grant Hussey in the sixth and Barry in the ninth.
KU nearly mounted a comeback in the bottom of the ninth when Caleb Upshaw knocked a three-run home run to right-center. The Jayhawks managed to get the tying run to the plate after Kevin Dowdell walked Cooper McMurray with two outs, but Trey Braithwaite replaced the reliever and cleaned up the threat with just one pitch to end the game.
Zach Ottinger (2-1) earned the victory after relieving Bravo. He tossed the next 2.1 frames and gave up a run on three this with two strikeouts and two walks. Noah Short relieved Ottinger in the sixth and struck out three while allowing three runs on three hits.
Barry, Hussey and Holbrook all recorded a pair of hits, while Barry finished his first three-RBI game of the season. Hussey’s homer was his third of the season and brought his team-leading tally to nine after a big Saturday in Lawrence.
English finished the day 3-for-5, while Upshaw added a pair of hits with three RBIs.
The Mountaineers take the series with the victory and improve their Big 12 record to 9-6. That puts them tentatively in fifth place — if Oklahoma manages to fall to Kansas State, however, WVU would move to a fourth-place tie with the Sooners.
Kansas remains in ninth place after falling to 3-12 in the league.
Currently without a midweek non-conference game for the upcoming week, WVU next turns its attention in its conference schedule to 10th-ranked Texas. The Longhorns are the top hitting team in the Big 12 before Sunday with a combined .317 batting average, 507 hits and 82 homers, led by Ivan Melendez, one of the top bats in the nation.