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Baseball drops series in West Virginia

Kansas State baseball failed to overcome a tough conference foe, falling 1-2 to West Virginia in the final road series of the regular season.

The Wildcats – 29-22, 13-14 in Big 12 play – saw their RPI rankings drop one spot to No. 37 with one regular-season series remaining. K-State will host BYU, ranked last in the Big 12, from May 16-18 ahead of postseason play.

West Virginia – 31-19, 17-10 in the conference – ranks third in the Big 12 despite possessing the No. 40 RPI, three spots lower than the Wildcats.

K-State grabbed an early lead in the series and took the opener in a classic Friday night baseball game. It was the ninth opening win of the year for the Wildcats.

“Another tight, well-played Friday game for our guys,” head coach Pete Hughes said in an interview statement to K-State Athletics. “… We were able to start quickly offensively, something that is crucial on the road. It was clean, tough baseball everywhere tonight. Proud of our boys.”

Simply put, K-State’s best pitchers stepped up when needed in the game, building enough offense in time for a 4-3 win.

Left-handed starter Owen Boerema recorded his fifth win of the year and moved to 5-3. The graduating senior allowed all three runs but struck out eight batters in his seven innings of work.

“(Boerema) set the tone and had a great start,” Hughes said. “He was able to keep a really good offense off the bases and off balance.”

Freshman Blake Dean set up All-American closer Tyson Neighbors to close the door in the ninth. Neighbors made it his fifth consecutive appearance with a save, putting the Mountaineers in order.

Offensively, junior Brady Day led the way by opening with an RBI single in the first inning, followed by another in the seventh. He finished the game 2-for-5 with two RBI.

In Game 2, K-State couldn’t overcome its mistakes.

The Wildcats yielded nine unearned runs across three errors. The self-inflicted injuries, combined with a rain delay midway through the match, led to a 13-0 blowout.

Second-year starter Jackson Wentworth faced seven batters over 6 1/3 innings, but was defeated with four earned runs to his name.

“Unfortunately, it’s hard to win the series finale when you have nine unearned runs,” Hughes said. “…I thought Jackson was really good tonight and just got a little unlucky with the weather.”

As the Wildcats’ offense increased in the series finale, the Mountaineers held strong and won the series with a 12-5 victory.

Graduate starter Josh Wintroub was picked up for three runs, two earned, in less than two innings of work. The bullpen arms failed to slow down West Virginia, with Jacob Frost, JJ Slack and Dean combining for nine runs in the final five innings.

Day came to the plate again and drove in three runners in a 1-for-4 game highlighted by a two-RBI triple in the sixth inning.

On deck for K-State, cellar dweller BYU will be our guest from May 16 at 6 p.m. The Wildcats will compete in the Big 12 tournament after the regular season concludes.