Kansas athletics

Kansas shortstop Benjamin Sems tags West Virginia’s Isaiah Kerns too late on a stolen base Sunday. The Jayhawks won 5-2 to take the rubber game of the series.

 

LAWRENCE, Kan. — West Virginia’s NCAA at-large odds suffered a bruising when Kansas rode three home runs to a 5-2 victory Sunday.

After winning 21-3 in Friday’s opener, the Mountaineers (24-21, 7-11 Big 12) were outscored 18-5 over the final two games as Kansas won its first series in more than a month.

“It shows the kind of character you have in your dugout,” Jayhawks coach Ritch Price said. “It would have been easy to shut it down after (Friday) for the entire weekend, but those guys kept grinding.”

Kyle Gray hit his fourth homer of the weekend and team-leading 13th of the season for West Virginia, who remained seventh in the Big 12 standings with an RPI that fell 11 spots to 43 following the back-to-back losses. With two weeks left in the regular season, Kansas (22-25, 5-11) remained in eighth place aiming to secure the final spot in conference tournament.

Taylor Turski (2-7) struck out seven and limited the Mountaineers to a run on five hits over six innings. He departed with a 3-1 lead thanks to a two-run shot by No. 9 hitter Benjamin Sems and solo homer from James Consentino.

WVU starter Isaiah Kerns (3-2) fanned nine but served up both fifth-inning homers that put Kansas ahead for good. Sems’ shot was unexpected — his second homer of the season and first in 23 games.

“I was disappointed in the first four innings, we were chasing a lot of pitches,” Price said. “We made a couple of adjustments and laid off those pitches in the fifth, and did a much better job.”

Braden Zarbniski yielded Owen Taylor’s solo homer and Consentino’s RBI single in the seventh when Kansas stretched the lead to 5-1.

Gray extended his career-best hitting streak to 22 games with a second-inning single before adding a solo homer in the ninth. He finished the weekend 8-of-13 to raise his batting average to .361.

Now 2-7 in Big 12 road games, West Virginia will visit TCU next weekend. It likely needs to win that series and the season-ender against Baylor to have any shot at an NCAA at-large bid. Failing that, the Mountaineers would have to win the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City to reach the postseason.

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