West Virginia Slugs Past Jayhawks, 11-6

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Behind three hits and two RBIs from junior first baseman Marcus Wheeler, Kansas baseball plated six runs, but fell victim to a West Virginia offensive outburst, surrendering an 11-6 loss to the Mountaineers Saturday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
In the end, Kansas (7-13, 0-2 Big 12) used a combination of six pitchers, but could not solve West Virginia’s (12-9, 2-3 Big 12) hitters as they tallied 15 hits and scored runs in all but two innings of the contest. WVU’s Conner Dotson (4-1) was credited with the win and Mountaineer Jeff Hardy earned a three-inning save, striking out six.
Kansas had little trouble getting its leadoff men on base to begin 5-of-9 innings against the Mountaineers. Freshman leadoff hitter Rudy Karre hit safely in three appearances leading off an inning and the Jayhawks, with the help of Wheeler and sophomore catcher TJ Martin – who had two RBI’s – scored in such a situation four times.   
“I was pleased with the backend of our lineup,” head coach Ritch Price said. “It was nice to see Martin contribute and it was nice to see Wheeler contribute. Then to see Martin clutch up there with a two-out RBI and Wheeler followed with another – I really liked the position we were in there (in the third inning). Unfortunately we didn’t execute enough pitches and walked too many guys.”
In KU’s home half of the first, the Jayhawks struck early as Karre singled to right field on the very first pitch he saw. Sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley’s base knock later brought Karre around to score from second base, taking an early 1-0 advantage.
As it would all day, West Virginia responded and tied the contest in the second inning, but hung a three-spot on KU freshman starter Jackson Goddard in the third inning, increasing the lead to three runs, 4-1.
Kansas responded in its half of the third with a two-out bases loaded knock into center field by Martin, scoring two runs and bringing the score to 4-3 in favor of West Virginia. In the next at bat, Wheeler tied the game with a single into center field, bringing around Foyle and knocking WVU’s starter Vance Ross out of the contest.
West Virginia claimed its final lead of the contest in the fourth, 5-4, when Kansas freshman reliever Blake Goldsberry surrendered a double off of the wall in center field, scoring a Mountaineer from first.
Kansas had its chance in the middle innings to reclaim a lead, but squandered the opportunity with the tying runner in scoring position on second base.
In the bottom of the sixth, Karre doubled to lead off the inning, advanced on a single by McLaughlin, and was brought around on a fielder’s choice to bring the score within one, 7-6, West Virginia.
“We had good at bats but unfortunately we weren’t able to pitch good enough to stop them from scoring,” Price said. “When we got back within a run again, we couldn’t stop them again.”
Kansas threatened later in the sixth inning with runners on first and second, but faltered after what would be its last run of the contest and West Virginia escaped the inning clinging to a one-run lead, 7-6.  
“It was a tough day,” Wheeler said. “We swung the bats really well and hit the ball into the gaps a lot. We just need to come back tomorrow and salvage the weekend.”
Over the next two innings, the Mountaineers tacked on four runs to walk away with an 11-6 victory and a 2-0 lead in KU’s 2016 Big 12 Conference opening series.
Kansas will return to the diamond Sunday, March 27 for game-three of its series against West Virginia.
“We have a saying in our program, ‘it’s all about Sunday.’ It is the most important day of the weekend,” Price said. “It will be a two-man game tomorrow. Blake Weiman will start and then we will go right to Stephen Villines – there will be nobody between them. We need to find a way to salvage the game on Sunday.”
First pitch from Hoglund Ballpark is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. Fans can watch live on ESPN3 or tune into the action on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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