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Munden rallies Mountaineers past Kansas in series finale

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even as he continued to pace the Big 12 in home runs, Taylor Munden’s good swings became scarce while batting .192 over a miserable month.

The shortstop delivered a timely slump-buster Sunday afternoon, launching a two-out, two-run homer that rallied West Virginia past Kansas 5-4 to avoid a series sweep.

Munden hit his league-leading 10th home run in the seventh inning off reliever Blake Weiman to cap a comeback after the Mountaineers (24-17, 6-9) fell behind 4-0 early.

Outfielders Kyle Davis, K.C. Huth and Shaun Wood celebrate WVU’s 5-4 win over Kansas on Sunday.

Kansas (19-25, 6-9), which won 3-1 on Friday and 9-5 on Saturday, put two runners on board in the ninth before WVU closer Blake Smith fanned Matt McLaughlin for his sixth save.

The Jayhawks left tied with West Virginia for seventh place in the Big 12 standings. Only the top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament.

Weiman (1-7) left a 1-1 curveball over the plate, which Munden yanked into the bullpen beyond the left-field wall.

“I was sitting on off-speed,” said Munden, whose average had fallen from .352 on March 25 to .278 entering Sunday. “I saw a curve on the first pitch and then he went way away with a fastball. Then he threw that breaking ball again and it came a little too far inside. I put a good swing on it and I knew it was gone.”

Right-hander Chad Donato (6-4), who recovered from a four-run second inning to pitch into the eighth, led the mob at home plate to congratulate Munden.

“I was the first one out to dap him up,” Donato said. “That was a game-changer right there.”

Munden’s RBI single in the bottom of the second followed Shaun Wood’s line-drive two-run homer—the right fielder’s third home run in two days—as WVU quickly sliced into the Jayhawks’ early lead.

“We lost the first two games of the series and then they throw up a four-spot in the second and you’re thinking, OK, come on, Mountaineers. Don’t give up,” Mazey said. “We just punched them right back with three in the bottom of the second.”

Donato worked 7 2/3 innings, struck out five, walked two and allowed eight hits. He allowed only three baserunners outside of the 35-pitch second inning.

“(The ump) was squeezing me, but that’s where I’ve got to pick it up and say I can’t strike everybody out today. I’ve go to let my defense work,” Donato said. “I trusted my defense and said if they hit it, they hit it.”

Sean Racksoski worked five innings in his first Big 12 start for Kansas, yielding seven hits and a walk while striking out seven.

KC Huth added two hits for the Mountaineers, who completed a 6-5 homestand to open the new $25 million Monongalia County Ballpark. Another 1,503 fans attended Sunday and went home happy because of Munden’s big swing.

“That kid has made himself into a quality Big 12 player,” Mazey said. “When he came here as a sophomore, I don’t think he even hit .200 and he made a ton of errors at shortstop. But if you recruit good athletes with tremendous work ethic, they always find a way to figure it out.

“My hat’s off to that kid for what he’s done the last three years. He’s really turned into a threat at home plate.”

West Virginia plays two midweek road games, facing Marshall in Charleston on Tuesday before visiting Radford on Wednesday.

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