MANHATTAN, Kansas — West Virginia nearly let a career performance from starter Jackson Wolf go wanting, but after blowing a save in the ninth, the Mountaineers got a run with the help of a K-State error in the top of the 11th inning for a 4-3 win in Manhattan, Kansas on Friday night.
Wolf set career highs in innings pitched, pitches thrown and strikeouts while going eight innings, striking out 10 and allowing just two earned runs to the Wildcats. The Gahanna, Ohio, native threw 128 times to the plate, 83 of which went for strikes as he set WVU (15-16, 6-7) up with a 3-2 lead going into the final inning.
After walking the leadoff batter in the ninth, Wolf departed in favor of reliever Jake Watters. The Mountaineer closer got a pair of strikeouts, but the second came on a wild pitch, which put runners on the corners with one out. Wildcat designated hitter Cameron Usleton then chopped a weak grounder to short that didn’t allow for a double play try or a play at the plate, and Zach Kokoska scored to tie the game at 3-3.
After a scoreless 10th, WVU’s Matt McCormick doubled, then moved to third on Kevin Brophy’s groundout to first. Nathan Blasick, pinch-hitting for Austin Davis, reached on a throwing error by shortstop Nick Goodwin, which allowed McCormick to score the winning run.
The game started out as a pitchers’ duel between Wolf and K-State starter Jordan Wicks, neither of whom allowed a run through the first four innings. West Virginia then took advantage of a wild pitch on a strikeout and four singles to score three runs in the top of the fifth. Paul McIntosh led off the inning by striking out, but the pitch was out of the reach of catcher Chris Ceballos, allowing McIntosh to reach first. Vince Ippoliti, McCormick and Brophy then sprayed the field with singles to right, left and up the middle, respectively, with the latter two scoring runs. After a pair of strikeouts, Mikey Kluska got the Mountaineers their third run with another single.
Kansas State (21-16, 4-9) got one run back in the bottom of the fifth with some help from the Mountaineer defense. After Wolf fanned the first two batters of the inning, K-State got a pair of singles, with an error on the second allowing Cameron Thompson to come around to score. Wolf didn’t let the gaffe bother him, however, getting a third strikeout to end the inning with two on.
Two innings later, the Cats cut the defiict to one on a solo home run by Ceballos, one of three very hard hit balls in the inning as Wolf appeared to lose a bit of control. That appeared to be continuing in the eighth, but after walking Goodwin on an 11-pitch at-bat, Wolf picked him off with a good move to first, then fanned Dylan Phillips for the third out of the frame.
Watters (3-0) got the win after missing the chance for the save in the ninth. Wicks, like Wolf, suffered a no-decision despite a good start in which he allowed three earned runs on five hits in 6.2 innings. He struck out a career-high 11 and walked three while having just the one rough inning in the top of the fifth. Reliever Tyler Eckberg was tagged with the loss, giving up the unearned run in WVU’s final at-bat.
Game two of the series is set for a 5 p.m. first pitch this afternoon at Tointon Family Stadium. Sophomore lefty Jake Carr (1-2, 10.96 ERA) will be back on the hill for the Mountaineers against Wildcat redshirt freshman right-hander Connor McCullough (2-2, 4.56 ERA). The game can be seen on ESPN+.