Baseball drops series opener to West Virginia in extras

Kansas State outfielder, Nick Goodwin, catches a pop fly against in the Wildcat's 8-3 victory over Oklahoma at Tointon Family Stadium on April 18, 2021. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Late game heroics in extra innings pushed West Virginia to a 4-3 win over the Kansas State baseball team on Friday night.

K-State managed to tie the game after a three-run fifth inning by the Mountaineers but left seven on base with 16 strikeouts.

“We got our guy on the mound and couldn’t take advantage of getting a Friday night win,” K-State head coach Pete Hughes said. “West Virginia put the ball in play more than we did in critical situations, so that was the storyline of the game. That’s it.”

Mountaineer senior pitcher Jackson Wolf tossed a season-high 8.0 innings and gave up three runs on six hits with 10 strikeouts and two walks, but nothing to show for it in a no-decision.

Sophomore pitcher Jacob Watters (3-0) tossed three scoreless innings with six strikeouts and one walk in the win for the Mountaineers.

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Wicks threw a career-high 11 strikeouts in 6.2 innings but allowed three runs on five hits. Redshirt junior Tyler Eckberg (3-4) earned the loss in 1.1 innings pitched, allowing the tie-breaking run in the 10th inning.

A wild pitch on a strikeout that would eventually come around to score was the difference-maker in the ninth start of the season for Wicks.

“We had a dropped third strike,” Hughes said. “We gave them four outs in the inning. You get in trouble when you give a team like West Virginia, who puts a lot of pressure on you offensively.”

Wicks held the Mountaineers to two baserunners until the fifth inning when senior catcher Paul McIntosh reached on a wild pitch after he struck out with no outs. West Virginia tacked on four singles in the inning to take a 3-0 lead.

K-State pulled within one with a two-out single by freshman shortstop Nick Goodwin. Senior third baseman Cameron Thompson scored on an error in the outfield to open the scoring for the Wildcats.

Senior catcher Chris Ceballos belted his fourth home run of the season to lead off the seventh inning for the Wildcats to pull within the Mountaineers at 3-2.

“That was a big hit, Hughes said. “I wish we had guys on base, but it was a tough night to hit home runs, and he got us going and opened the door for us to get some offense against Wolf, who was outstanding.”

The Wildcats have hit 52 home runs this season, second in the Big 12 Conference and seventh-most in the country.

The Wildcats opened the ninth inning with a leadoff walk by junior right fielder Zach Kokoska. The Wildcats had runners at the corners after two wild pitches that included junior first baseman Terrence Spurlin reaching on a wild pitch following a strikeout.

Freshman outfielder Cameron Uselton knocked in Kokoska to tie the ballgame at three apiece with an infield bouncer that resulted in a fielder’s choice and sent the game into extra innings.

Sophomore first baseman Matt McCormick sparked the Mountaineer offense with a one-out double and came around to score on an error. Kokoska drew a lead-off walk, but K-State could not move him over, thus ending the comeback.

Redshirt freshman right-hander Connor McCullough (2-2, 4.56 ERA) will take the mound for the Wildcats in game two on Saturday. Sophomore southpaw Jake Carr (1-2, 10.96 ERA) will counter for West Virginia. First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will be available on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and News Radio KMAN.