The Mountaineers used Kyle Davis' three-run homer to rally from down four runs to tie 6-6 in the 7th inning. But Jeff Hardy walked the lead off hitter in the 9th, then threw a sac bunt into centerfield trying to get the lead runner. Another sac bunt set up two runners in scoring position, and Ethier took a Blake Sims offering the opposite way, drilling a deep shot to right field that Darius Hill couldn't handle. It easily scored both, Ethier sliding into third as West Virginia slid farther down the Big 12 standings.
The Mountaineers went down in order in the 9th inning to lose for the fourth time in five games, this latest defeat coming at the hands of the conference's last place team.
"This isn't on any one player or any one play," Davis said. "We just have to come back tomorrow."
In truth, the game seemed to be slipping away before Davis' three-run blast to left easily cleared the 325-foot sign down the line. West Virginia trailed 6-2 in the 6th inning, and had squandered multiple chances with runners in scoring position. But the Mountaineers rallied via Ivan Vera's sac fly and Davis' blast, his fourth of the season. After Vera got WVU within 6-3 in the 6th inning, Jimmy Galusky and Darius Hill reached on a walk and single in the 7th. Davis then turned on a 1-2 fastball, pulling it deep to left to tie the game at 6-6.
That seemed to give West Virginia much-needed momentum, and Hardy continued to work efficiently, getting the Mountaineers into the 9th inning before creating the jam when he tried to get the lead runner instead of taking the sure out.
"The throw was just high," head coach Randy Mazey said. "We had the out. We teach that on a bunt if you've got the lead runner, take it. We just didn't execute."
Kansas State pounded out 11 hits and chased starter Chad Donato after four innings, even as the right-hander gave up just one earned run on three allowed because of a pair of errors. West Virginia finished with eight hits, but never flashed much offense until late. Hardy (0-1) took the loss, while reliever Mitch Zumbradt (1-0) picked up his first win of the season.
The Mountaineers (17-15, 4-5) were paced by Davis' three RBI and a 3-for-5 performance from Hill. The leadoff hitter doubled and had an RBI and scored twice. Four different hitters had multi-hit games for Kansas State (15-19, 1-9), which picked up its first league win in 10 games.
The game was back and forth early, with two lead changes over the first four frames. While KSU starter Parker Rigler cruised into the 3rd inning, Donato allowed three singles and a run in the 1st inning before striking out the side. Kansas State then loaded the bases in the next two innings before Donato induced a pair of groundouts to get out of the jams. Through the first three frames, the Wildcats had already stranded eight runners.
West Virginia took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 3rd on a walk and back-to-back doubles to right field by Hill and KC Huth. Hill's was his team-leading 13th of the season, and good for his team-best 24th RBI. K-State responded with a pair of runs off Donato in the 4th on a lead off walk and a series of errors. After Donato put the first hitter on, Jackson Cramer failed to field the throw after a sac bunt, putting two on with nobody out. Donato then struck out Josh Rolette and had a chance to get out of the inning on a ball up the middle to Jimmy Galusky. But the freshman mishandled the hop, which scored the runner from second to tie the game at 2-2. Donato's wild pitched then moved the two runners into scoring position, and Tyler Moore delivered a sac fly to center as Kansas State went ahead 3-2.
Donato made it to just one more hitter, again walking the lead off batter before being replaced by Hardy. Donato went the four innings, with three runs, one earned, along with three walks, two hit batsmen and one wild pitch. He struck out seven. Hardy entered and promptly gave up three runs - two on a key double by Jake Wodtke that put the Wildcats up 6-2 - before retiring 11 in a row from the 5th through 8th innings. He was pulled with one out in the 9th with runners at second and third.
The Mountaineers had multiple earlier chances, including a bases loaded opportunity with one out in the 5th inning. But KC Huth hit into an easy double play, Wodtke ranging to his right at second and stepping on the bag before getting Huth at first to end the threat. It was a microcosm of the game as a whole until the 7th inning, K-State's flares and bloops finding holes in the defense while some of WVU's hardest hit balls were right at fielders.
West Virginia still leads the all-time series 6-4; the Mountaineers had won five of the previous six match-ups versus Kansas State. It was K-State's first Big 12 road win of the season. They are now 1-3 away from home in conference play.
The series continues Saturday at 4 p.m. WVU will start left-hander Ross Vance (4-1, 4.23 ERA) against righty Levi MaVorhis (3-3, 4.60 ERA). Vance threw a complete game three-hitter at KSU last season in a 5-3 win.