West Virginia’s 0-4 start in Big 12 play seems like eons ago.
Sunday’s eighth-inning rally, triggered by Paul McIntosh scoring the go-ahead run on a controversial play at the plate, propelled the No. 22 Mountaineers to a 7-4 win at Kansas State.
By winning a third consecutive road series, West Virginia (31-18, 13-11) matched its best Big 12 record since joining the conference seven years ago.
“What a huge game,” said WVU coach Randy Mazey, whose team likely can finish no worse than fourth in the league standings. “After starting the conference season 0-4, to come back to 13-11 and put ourselves in this position, it’s been a great, great regular season.”
Tyler Doanes and Brandon White each had three hits for the Mountaineers, whose 15 hits overall were two off their season-high.
The Mountaineers, only 4-15 when trailing after seven innings, entered the eighth down 4-3. With two aboard, Ivan Gonzalez faked a bunt and punched a single into center that squared the game.
TJ Lake’s fly ball to centerfield sent McIntosh tagging from third, and though the runner missed the plate on a head-first slide, umpires ruled him safe due to catcher’s obstruction. The run was upheld after a review that required 5 minutes.
Two more runs ensued on a Doanes sac-fly and White’s single.
Sam Kessler got the final six outs to notch his eighth save, two shy of the single-season school mark.
Kansas State (25-28, 8-13) remained 1 1/2 games ahead of Texas for the final spot in the Big 12 tournament.
West Virginia starter Kade Strowd gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings — his longest outing in five weeks. He struck out five but left with a 4-3 deficit.
Cameron Thompson’s two-out single in the seventh pulled K-State even at 3-3, and White’s off-target throw from centerfield allowed the go-ahead run to reach second. After Zach Ottinger (2-0) relieved Strowd, Thompson scored on Thomas Hughes’ soft single to right-center.
K-State’s Jordan Wicks scattered 10 hits over seven innings, allowing three runs and fanning seven.
Marques Inman’s homer to left field put WVU up 2-0 in the first. K-State got a run back in the bottom half thanks to Tevin Tucker’s throwing error and Terrence Spurlin’s RBI single.
West Virginia took a 3-1 lead in the fifth on White’s sacrifice fly. In the sixth, Strowd walked Hughes and gave up a single to Spurlin before Chris Ceballos hit a sac-fly.
The Mountaineers, who close the regular season with four nonconference games, are currently a half-game behind Oklahoma State in the Big 12 standings.