On a windy evening in Manhattan, Kansas State baseball fell 8-3 in the first of a three-game weekend series against the No. 24 West Virginia Mountaineers. K-State moves to 18-10 and 4-3 in Big 12 play.
The Wildcats came ready to play both sides of the ball. K-State starting pitcher Owen Boerema struck out the side in the top of the first. The bats followed suit in the bottom half as center fielder Brendan Jones homered on his pitch. Third basemen Kaelen Culpepper hit a solo shot of his own to give K-State an early 2-0 lead.
West Virginia’s right fielder Caleb McNeely gave Boerema problems all evening, starting in the second with a deep home run into right. The Mountaineers tagged on another in the second to tie the game. McNeely singled to bring in another run and give West Virginia the lead in the third inning.
McNeely, this time in the fifth, came through with an RBI double. A groundout scored another run, expanding the Mountaineer lead, 5-2.
The Wildcat offense began to sputter as West Virginia starting pitcher Ben Hampton settled in. The southpaw set 13 straight outs and recorded 8 strikeouts through just five innings.
Second basemen J.J. Wetherholt, the Big 12 leader in batting average, hit a no-doubt homer in the sixth. West Virginia led 7-2.
Boerema’s day finished sour after a strong start. The lefty finished after six innings with seven strikeouts, 10 hits and was accountable for all West Virginia’s first seven runs.
K-State had an opportunity to strike in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with just one out. Freshman Carson Queck, at designated hitter for the night, struck out looking before right fielder Cash Rugely walked home a run. It was the sole run the Wildcats scratched across in the inning, still trailing by four runs.
The Mountaineers took the lead back to five runs in the seventh with a towering solo shot to left field. K-State saw its last opportunity to cut the deficit by loading the bases in the eighth but came away with nothing.
McNeely tripled in the top of ninth to record the first Mountaineer cycle since 2014.
Hampton (2-0) received the win for West Virginia and Boerema (4-1) recorded his first loss of the season. The second game of the series will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday.