MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia sophomore Michael Grove pitched perfect baseball into the eighth inning, astounding the 2,085 in attendance, including the team in the opposing dugout.
“In the 15 years I have been at Kansas, that is one of the most dominant pitching performances I have ever seen,” Jayhawks coach Ritch Price said after West Virginia coasted to an 8-0 victory Saturday. “We only had two good at-bats, to show you how dominant that was.”
Grove posted 12 strikeouts and retired the first 23 batters he faced before losing his bid for a perfect game when David Kyriacou lined a single to center with two outs in the eighth.
The near-brush with history stoked the Mountaineers’ enthusiasm as they clinched the weekend series behind 14 hits, including homers from Jackson Cramer, Darius Hill and Kyle Davis.
West Virginia (19-10, 6-2 Big 12) won its sixth straight overall, while the Jayhawks fell to 13-7 and 3-5.
Looking dialed in from the start, Grove (3-1) needed only 11 pitches in the second inning and 10 in the fifth. When the right-hander from Wheeling Park High struck out the side in the seventh, the park really began buzzing.
“It was cool, and it was fun to sit down and kind of realize it was a possibility,” Grove said. “Then after I struck out the side in the seventh, I walked off and I was like ‘Uh-oh, I might be able to do this.’ Then the next couple batters I got behind.”
Kyriacou’s single on a 2-0 count became the only ball to leave the infield during Grove’s eight-inning, 109-pitch performance.
“You don’t talk about a no-hitter or perfect game, but everybody knows. All the fans know, the umpires know, both teams know,” said Mountaineers coach Randy Mazey. “It takes on a whole new meaning when a guy has got that kind of game going.
“I was rooting like crazy for him. But they got a hit with two outs in the eighth, and it wasn’t a cheap hit. I’m just super proud of Michael.”
West Virginia reliever Riley Troutt fanned the Jayhawks on 13 pitches in the ninth.
Jackson Goddard (2-2) matched Grove until the fourth, when Cole Austin ripped a one-out double down the third-base line and Hill followed with a two-run shot to right-center.
A Kyle Davis single and Jimmy Galusky’s double set the table for Brandon White’s two-run single and a 4-0 lead.
Cramer homered in the fifth to make it 5-0, before Kansas reliever Jeider Rincon replaced Stoddard and yielded a three-run shot by Davis to center field.
“Goddard pitched great and gave us three shutout innings,” Price said. “But then in the fourth, to their credit, they were physical with those two swings in the inning.
“This ballpark is a launching pad. If you get the ball in the air elevated, it has a really good chance of getting out.”
West Virginia shoots for the series sweep Sunday at 12:30 p.m.