GRANVILLE, W.Va. — Robby Porco’s first start in his home ballpark couldn’t have gone much better. The towering freshman pitcher was exactly what the doctor ordered for West Virginia, after the team’s starters struggled in the first two games of this weekend’s series.
Porco danced around error-induced trouble in the first inning and was masterful from that point on.
The six-foot, eight-inch righty recorded multiple strikeouts in five consecutive innings, and struck out the side in the fifth. When his six frames on the mound were done, Porco had dominated the visiting Jayhawks lineup to the tune of 12 strikeouts, punching out nearly half of the hitters he faced.
With Porco dominating on the mound, No. 24 West Virginia (23-9, 3-3 Big 12) cruised to a 12-3 victory to salvage the weekend series and avoid a sweep.
The freshman hurler faced any sort of drama just once, and it came in the first inning. Fielding errors on three consecutive groundballs allowed the Jayhawks (15-15, 5-4 Big 12) to score an early unearned run. Porco stayed poised, and struck out a pair of hitters to get through the frame.
He was close to lights out the rest of the way. Porco pitched a pair of 1-2-3 innings, recorded at least one punchout in every inning he pitched in, and held Kansas to just one earned run on two hits, while striking out a dozen across his six innings of work.
While Porco dazzled on the bump, his lineup was doing what it does best at the plate.
West Virginia scored five runs and batted around in the bottom of the first inning. WVU tallied just two hits in the frame, but had the bases loaded for much of it thanks to three hit batters and two walks.
Leading 5-2 entering the bottom of the fourth, West Virginia tacked on two more runs to its total. Left fielder Landon Wallace hit a slicing, opposite-field home run to right field. Three batters later, Braden Barry doubled home a run to put WVU back up by five runs.
Wallace moved up the lineup to the No. 2 hole, and Barry slid down to fifth in the order for Sunday’s game. The move worked. Wallace, who also homered in the sixth inning, went 2 for 4 with a pair of longballs and three runs batted in. Barry collected two hits in four tries, and drove in three runs.
Grant Hussey hit his fourth home run in the last seven games when he went yard in the bottom of the seventh. Hussey’s two-hit day marked his fifth multi-hit performance over this recent hot stretch.
In total, six WVU hitters had multi-hit days, led by JJ Wetherholt, who went 3 for 5 with a pair of runs scored. Wallace and Caleb McNeely touched home three times each. After striking out a combined 24 times in the first two games of the series, Mountaineer hitters were sat down on strikes just twice on Sunday.
West Virginia hits the road Tuesday to take on Penn State (17-11, 1-5 Big Ten) in State College. That will start a five-game road swing for the Mountaineers.