Munden sat offspeed on a 1-1 pitch, launching a seventh-inning shot into the same KU bullpen which had plagued the Mountaineers over the first two games. The home run was Munden’s Big 12-leading 10th of the season and gave WVU its first lead over Kansas in two games, while also moving West Virginia into a tie with the Jayhawks for sixth in the Big 12.
“The whole game I honestly didn’t sit on fastball, because I rarely get them,” Munden said. “I sat on curve ball and I saw the first one and it was middle away and then fastball away and then that (curve) came back in a little too far and I put a good swing on it.”
Chad Donato pitched 7.2 innings, holding Kansas scoreless over all but one of the frames, a four-run second inning that seemed to again bury the Mountaineers, which trailed KU for the vast majority of the series before Munden’s homer. The right-hander gave up eight total hits, but just three outside the second inning while striking out five. Donato (6-4) had just two walks, but both were with the bases loaded and forced in a pair of runs. Blake Smith pitched the ninth inning for his sixth save of the season, getting into a two-on, two-out jam before striking out three-hitter Matt McLaughlin to end the game and send the 1,503 in attendance home happy.
“It’s not good giving up four runs in one inning, but I got back in the dugout and I flushed it,” said Donato, who retired 12 of 13 hitters through five innings aside from the rough second frame. “My teammates picked me up and got the bats going and it relived a lot of pressure off me. We got back in the ball game and it was time for me to take it and run.”
The game looked to be going the same as the first two KU wins early, as the Jayhawks took a 4-0 lead in the second inning. Donato allowed three straight singles before a pair of walks that forced two runs in and triggered assistant Derek Matlock’s mound visit. Two more singles plated the last pair of runs before Donato settled to get a strike and ground out to strand three and end the inning. KU tallied five hits and sent 10 hitters to the plate in the inning, with clean-up hitter Michael Tinsley making the first and third outs.
WVU answered, as it did Saturday, with a Shaun Wood home run in the bottom half, his seventh of the season and third consecutive in as many at bats after he hit a pair in the middle series game. The two-run shot easily cleared the 375-foot mark in right center for his team-best 30th RBI of the season. A trio of singles, the last Munden’s two-out RBI grounder up the middle, got West Virginia within 4-3. The game then settled into a scoreless next four innings, with KU starter Sean Rackoski working five full, allowing the three runs, all earned, with seven strikeouts and a walk.
“We could have easily folded up the tents when they scored four in the second,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “We talked about it before the game that, not just in baseball, but in life, bad things are going to happen and to keep grinding, keep grinding. We went into (the season) saying we were going to live and die by the homer and the double, and we did that today scoring four runs with two swings of the bat.
Donato had the Big 12’s 10th-best ERA entering, and looked strong even into the seventh inning before getting pulled in favor of Smith with two outs after a fielder’s choice. Second baseman Shaun Corso threw past first trying to complete a double play, with the umpires originally ruling the ball had skipped into the WVU dugout. But after arguments from both head coaches, the crew concluded the ball had actually struck a silver railing, making the ball in play. Jayhawk baserunner Steve Goldstein was ordered back to first, and Garrett Hope finished the frame by throwing out the KU designated hitter on a steal attempt.
That set-up the ninth for Smith, who got the first two outs quickly before a single and a walk filled the park with tension. Smith then got McLaughlin with a lunging swing on a full count after the KU shortstop had fouled off a pair of fastballs. The win snapped Kansas’ season-best three-game winning streak and earned West Virginia (24-17, 6-9 Big 12) a 6-5 record on its initial home stand at Mon County Ballpark. The Jayhawks (19-25, 6-9) failed in trying to sweep WVU for second straight season; the Mountaineers have lost four of five Big 12 series this season and are just 7-17 over their last 24 league games.
“That was two really good teams going against each other,” Mazey said. “Kansas came in here last place in the league and showed what they are and how good Big 12 baseball is.”
West Virginia next plays Marshall (14-26) in Charleston, W.Va. on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Mountaineers have also added a game at Radford (28-13) on Wednesday. First pitch is 2 p.m.