"We had every opportunity to be down on ourselves and we had some veteran guys lift us up today," WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. "That's just a really good team win."
West Virginia scored in seven different innings and put up crooked numbers in three of those to outpace the Jayhawks, but it didn't come without a fight. After being shut out in the series opener on Friday, Kansas wasted no time breaking into the scoring column Saturday afternoon against WVU starter Ross Vance. KU third baseman Rudy Karre led the game off with a single, and after advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt, he was brought home on a single by catcher Michael Tinsley.
West Virginia (12-8, 2-3) has been good this year in getting on the board early, and after a scoreless first wasted no time responding. The Mountaineers got that run right back in the top of the second after Marques Inman, who led the inning off with a single, scored from second on a fielding error by KU shortstop Matt McLaughlin to knot the game 1-1.
"Inman got emabarassed yesterday at the plate but we put him back in the lineup and he smashes the ball all over the park," Mazey said in singling out his play at DH. "A guy who had the chance to get down on himself and he didn't do it. As a baseball player you have to have a short memory and that's a perfect demonstration of how to do it."
The Mountaineers and Inman kept the bats hot in the third, scoring three runs on four hits, highlighted by back-to-back RBI singles from Inman and K.C. Huth. Ray Guerrini provided some drama with a successful suicide squeeze play to score Inman from third and put WVU up 4-1.
Vance, who is usually an innings eater, was unable to make the big inning from his offense stand up, however, as Kansas (7-13, 0-2) got all three runs back in the bottom of the third. The WVU lefty hit two batters and allowed two hits to bring the game back tied 4-4 before he was pulled in favor of Conner Dotson, who got the last out of the inning on a ground out against the first batter he faced.
Vance made it through just 2.2 innings, allowed four runs on six hits and hit three batters on the day. It was his shortest outing of the year to date. He struggled to keep the ball down as he induced just one ground ball out in his appearance.
This led to something of a critical juncture for the Mountaineers, who were unable to respond to TCU rallies in last weekend's series. This time, though, WVU cranked it into a higher gear.
Darius Hill put WVU back in the lead 5-4 with a one-out double in the top of the fourth, scoring Kyle Davis who had walked in front of him, and Inman again produced in the fifth as he doubled and came home on Jimmy Galusky’s single to push WVU’s lead out to 6-4. Braden Zarbnisky picked up his first career RBI on a ground ball fielder’s choice with the bases loaded and one out, giving WVU a 7-4 lead in the middle of the fifth.
Kansas began to chip away immediately, however, picking up single runs in the bottom of the fifth and sixth against Dotson to cut the lead to 7-6. Mazey then called on Jeff Hardy, who got the last out of the inning and then proceeded to shut the Jayhawks down over the final three innings.
Meanwhile, Galusky, who had three hits in the game, provided another spark with a lead-off double in the top of the seventh, and WVU played small ball to bring him in. A sacrifice bunt by Zarbnisky moved him to third, and Kyle Davis drove him in with a fly out to center to give WVU an 8-6 cushion.
As WVU’s bats were heating back up, reliever Jeff Hardy was cooling KU’s off. After getting the final out in the sixth, Hardy struck out the side in the seventh to settle the game down.
The Mountaineers took advantage of KU’s bullpen again in the eighth. Hill smacked his second double of the day to start the frame and Jackson Cramer followed that up with a walk. After Shaun Corso, who was pinch hitting for Inman, struck out trying to sacrifice bunt the runners over, Hill and Cramer took matters into their own hands with a double steal to set the Mountaineers up with men on second and third with one out. A sacrifice fly from Huth and RBI single by Guerrini completed the sequence to tack on two more runs. The Mountaineers added one more in the ninth when Shaun Wood doubled Kyle Gray home.
Hardy struck out six of the 13 batters he faced, and while allowing two hits, one was on a misplayed fly ball in the ninth that should have been a routine out. He did not walk a batter while turning what was looking like a last-at-bat close game into a comfortable win.
"[Hardy was] just attacking the strike zone," Mazey said on the IMG postgame show. "Relief pitchers have to come in and make guys swing and miss at something. If you can't do that you can't be out there when the game is close. He really picked us up."
In addition to Galusky, Iman also had three hits, while Hill and Huth had two each. Hill drove in three runs, and Inman scored three from the DH spot. Dotson was credited with the win, while Hardy earned a save.
Mazey, who earned his 100th win at WVU, was the recipient of a Gatorade shower at the conclusion of the contest.
The series concludes tomorrow with a 12:30 p.m. Eastern start in the series finale. B.J. Myers is set to start the game for WVU, which will be looking to even its Big 12 record at 3-3.