GRANVILLE, W.Va. — West Virginia ace Alek Manoah advised his teammates one run would be enough against Kansas.
With 15 strikeouts highlighting his three-hit shutout, that prediction materialized Saturday. When Marques Inman provided the necessary run, a bottom-of-the-ninth laser that cleared the centerfield wall, the No. 20 Mountaineers prevailed 1-0 in the opener of a doubleheader.
More than seven hours later, West Virginia claimed the nightcap 4-3, again in walkoff fashion, when Brandon White raced home on a wild pitch in the 11th.
Winners of four straight Big 12 series, the Mountaineers (24-13, 8-6) are becoming contenders in the conference race as Manoah seemingly becomes untouchable.
His scoreless innings streak extended to 31 2/3, though Manoah (6-2) warned: “If you start thinking results and stats, you can get in trouble.”
Then again, it’s impossible to ignore the stats from his last three starts: 26 innings with 10 hits allowed, 41 strikeouts and zero walks.
“That’s three games in a row that were super-dominant,” said West Virginia coach Randy Mazey. “Some guys can do it once but can’t repeat it. He’s repeating it every time now, which is a super credit to him.”
Some 16 scouts came to watch Manoah pitch last week against Texas Tech, and another gaggle saw him win this duel against the Jayhawks (19-18, 4-10).
Lowering his ERA to 1.81, Manoah joined the nation’s top five strikeout leaders with 95 this season. He threw 115 pitches, 88 for strikes, and set down 14 straight batters in one stretch.
Not even ninth-inning stickiness could get the WVU bullpen stirring. An infield single and Jaxx Groshans’ double inside the third-base bag put two runners in scoring position with none out.
Manoah countered by striking out pinch-hitter Tom Lichty, and then coaxing a soft comebacker that led to the lead runner being caught off third. James Cosentino followed with the hardest-hit ball of the game for Kansas, but Inman smothered the one-hopper and stepped on first to end the threat.
When they got to second and third with no outs, I kind of had squeeze in my mind,” Manoah said. “ I was able to get a big strikeout, and got one hit right back to me with bad baserunning. Then Marques made a huge play to get to the bottom.”
Inman led off the bottom half by ripping a 1-2 fastball from Jayhawks starter Ryan Cyr (2-5), who pitched much better than a 6.84 ERA suggested.
“Honestly I was just trying to make sure I didn’t strike out,” said Inman, who had never homered to dead-center, not even during batting practice. “I’m really speechless with that.”
Seeing Inman mobbed by teammates at home plate, Mazey surmised: “That might have been the biggest hit of the year so far.”
West Virginia 4, Kansas 3 (Game 2)
A nearly three-hour rain delay interrupted a 1-1 game in the sixth. And the day grew longer in the ninth when Jayhawks centerfielder Rudy Karre tied it at 3-3 with a two-run, two-out single off WVU closer Sam Kessler (3-2).
The Mountaineers eventually won it in the 11th, thanks to singles by White and Darius Hill before Kansas reliever Blake Goldsberry (4-5) skipped a wild pitch to the backstop.
“It’s so hard to win a doubleheader no matter who you play,” Mazey said. “Kudos to those guys for tying it up when they were down to two strikes and two outs against our closer.”
Paul McIntosh hit his team-high with homer for West Virginia and Nolan Metcalf went deep for Kansas. That was all that starters Jackson Wolf and Ryan Zeferjahn allowed through six innings, when lightning and hail forced a hiatus.
West Virginia took a 3-1 lead in the eighth when Inman scored on a wild pitch and Phillip Dull added an RBI single.
Tyler Doanes, WVU’s top hitter with a .305 average, was 2-for-3 in the second game but emerged from the weather delay wearing a boot on his left foot.
The third game of the series is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.
— Alex Hickey contributed to this report.