Redshirt-senior Caleb McNeely made history, Friday night, at Kansas State as he hit for the cycle in an 8-3 win for the West Virginia baseball team over the Wildcats at Tointon Family Stadium. The Mountaineers pick up their first Big 12 win of the season in their first attempt and improve to 20-6 overall while K-State falls to 18-10 and 4-3 in conference play.
“It feels good winning our first conference game,” said head coach Randy Mazey. “Ben Hampton did what he was supposed to do, pitched really well. The top of the lineup was great with JJ [Wetherholt] having three hits and McNeely hitting for the cycle. It’s just a great start to the Big 12 season.”
The cycle was the first for the Mountaineers since Billy Fleming did so against Kansas in 2014. It is just the fourth in WVU history, joining Bob Spangler against Coppin State in 1998 and Hal Grossman against Ohio Wesleyan in 1939.
McNeely got his homer out of the way early, hitting a ball the other way with heavy winds blowing out to right field. He followed that with an RBI single in the third and an RBI double in the fifth. After grounding out in the seventh, he hit a ball over the center fielder’s head and off the wall which bounced back toward the infield, allowing him to easily make it to third.
Sophomore JJ Wetherholt fell just a triple shy of the cycle himself, settling for a 3-for-5 day with his team-leading seventh home run of the season. The Mars, Pennsylvania native is now hitting .468 for the season and has 51 hits, the only player in the nation to reach the 50-hit plateau this season.
On the mound, junior Ben Hampton allowed two solo home runs in the first, but then settled down and threw 6.2 innings while striking out 10, matching a career-high, and giving up just three runs.
After falling behind 2-0 early, McNeely got the Mountaineers on the board with his home run in the second before two doubles from freshman Ellis Garcia and sophomore Grant Hussey evened up the game at two after two.
McNeely gave WVU the lead in the third with a single to score Wetherholt before extending the Mountaineer lead in the fifth with an RBI double. Freshman Sam White made it 5-2 in the fifth with a run-scoring groundout.
Wetherholt picked up his 50th hit of the season in the sixth as he blasted a two-run home run 427 feet to right.
The Wildcats got one run back in the sixth, but Hussey got it back in the eighth, hitting his fourth home run of the season just inside the foul pole down the left-field line as the wind blew it back into fair territory.
Kansas State loaded the bases in the eighth, but junior Carlson Reed got Roberto Pena looking at a called third strike to end the threat. In the ninth, Reed and graduate student Noah Short combined for a 1-2-3 inning.
The two teams will be back tomorrow for game two with first pitch set for 5 p.m. ET.