KU got off to another early lead in the second, as a single and a walk put runners on first and second. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners up, and a groundout scored Dakota Smith for the first run of the game with two outs. Without the walk, WVU could have escaped the inning unscathed, but the free pass set a tone for the rest of the afternoon. One inning later, leadoff batter Justin Protacio headed to first after four pitches outside of the strike zone, and that set the stage for a two-out, two-run double by Smith.
In the fifth, it was a different sort of control issue that contributed to a Jayhawk run. Aaron Hernandez was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and sure enough, he came around to score on a sacrifice bunt and a pair of hits to push Kansas' lead to 4-1. The Jayhawks again made WVU pay for a lack of accuracy in the seventh, capitalizing on three walks, the last of which forced in a run to give them more breathing room at 5-2.
"We gave them six or seven free passes. We walked them and hit them. They got on base and got hits, and we got on base and hit into double plays," head coach Randy Mazey told IMG Sports.
As Mazey noted, West Virginia (27-19, 9-10) was again able to put baserunners aboard, but saw them erased with the regularity of a grade school teacher's whiteboard. Kansas (32-21, 14-9) turned twin killings in the first, third and fourth innings, and managed to hold WVU to two runs despite the fact that 11 Mountaineers reached base.
In the end, it was the simple fact that Kansas got hits with runners in scoring position, while West Virginia mostly failed in similar situations. Jackson Cramer had two doubles and an RBI, but the top six batters in the Mountaineer order had just three hits on the day, and were outhit 4-3 by the 7-8-9 slots in the order.
Three Jayhawks accounted for eight of KU's nine hits on the day. Michael Suiter and Smith had three hits each, while Colby Wright had two.
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Sunday's game has been moved up to a 1:00 p.m. Eastern start. WVU will face Frank Duncan in the series finale.
"They throw their best guy on Sunday," Mazey noted. "He's one of the best pitchers in the league so we are going to have to do a good job in order to salvage one."