GRANVILLE, W. Va — Randy Mazey said after WVU’s blowout win over Kansas State that the series momentum was in the Wildcat dugout, but by the third inning, it had made its way back to that of the Mountaineers.
West Virginia (32-20, 13-10 Big 12) blasted its way to another victory over K-State (27-26, 8-15) on Friday, scoring 11 straight runs to open an 15-4 victory at home and take the final series of the season. The Mountaineers logged 14 hits in the victory, bringing the series total to 29 across two games.
Both teams lacked offense in the first two innings, combining to leave five men on base with just one hit.
That trend changed in the bottom of the third as WVU’s bats came alive. McGwire Holbrook put the first run on the board with a sac fly to score JJ Wetherholt, then on the subsequent at-bat, Braden Barry hit a two-run homer to left field to extend the lead to three runs.
West Virginia essentially sealed the game in the fourth when it batted around for the second time in the series, adding eight runs to its total. The massive run was capped off by a two-RBI triple from Tevin Tucker, his first of two hits on the night. Tucker hit a hard ground ball into right field and it trickled to the wall after K-State right fielder Cash Rugely dove and missed the ball.
“Actually when I hit that ball, I was hoping it would run away from him,” Tucker said. “Then when I saw he dove and missed it, I just ran as fast as I could.”
WVU’s first three base runners in that frame got first base for free. Tucker and Austin Davis were the first two men on base after working walks, then Wetherholt took first after getting hit by a pitch. The Mountaineers stole four bases in the inning to make the scoring come a little bit easier.
“I really thought not getting those two runs in the first inning…was gonna come back to get us, but we managed to keep grinding,” Mazey said. “With our offense, the way we run, you can’t walk us.”
Ben Hampton (8-4) took his final win of the regular season on the mound after a 6.1-inning start for WVU. He opened with four straight scoreless innings, giving up just two runs in the fifth on a two-RBI triple by Cash Rugely — his only hit of the night.
In total, Hampton allowed three hits while striking out eight and walking one. 70 of his 106 pitches went for strikes, a 66-percent rate.
German Fajardo (4-2) took the loss for the Wildcats after allowing seven runs on four hits in 3.1 innings of work. He walked six batters and struck out three.
The bottom of the lineup made the biggest impact for the Mountaineers. Mikey Kluska and Tucker, WVU’s eight and nine hitters, combined for five hits and four RBIs, and each had an extra-base hit. Even Grant Hussey, who started in the seven-hole, scored a run despite going hitless on the night.
Mazey has toyed around with his lineup in the latter weeks of the season, and Kluska’s addition was a last-minute switch. The late choice paid off when the final box scores came off the printer.
“I wish you knew that stuff going into it,” Mazey said.
Wetherholt’s strong finish to the season continued in the win as he finished 1-for-2 with two RBIs and three runs scored.
The Mountaineers stole six bags in the victory, bringing the season mark to 154 and adding to the program’s single-season record. Tucker led the way with two steals, while Wetherholt, Davis, Holbrook and Victor Scott II each added one to the effort.
“You want to play your best baseball in May and June, and it seems like that’s what we’re doing, and when you do that, that means you have a good team,” Mazey said. “That means the chemistry in the locker room is good, the culture in the program is good, guys are getting along, nobody’s being selfish. If you get the culture and the chemistry right, then that’s when the good players play well, and that’s kind of what we’re doing right now.”
Despite the victory, however, the Mountaineers make no movement in the Big 12 standings and remain in sixth place. Elsewhere in the league, Oklahoma State took a victory over Baylor to improve to 14-9 in the Big 12, while Texas defeated Kansas to improve to 13-10. Both teams hold a tiebreaker over the Mountaineers, putting WVU’s ceiling in the league standings at fifth place.
If WVU completes the sweep on Saturday and Texas falls to Kansas, the Mountaineers would jump the Longhorns for the No. 5 seed in the Big 12. Any other result, however, would keep WVU at No. 6.
The series finale is set for noon ET on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. As is tradition with the final home game of the regular season, Senior Day ceremonies will be held at Wagener Field starting at 11:40 p.m. ET.