WVU Storms Past St. John's

By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
April 11, 2009

west virginia 16, st. john's 2
hawley field
morgantown, w.va.
St. John's 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 9 3
West Virginia 3 1 0 0 2 1 0 9 X 16 12 2
Stat Comparison
At-Bats 34 34
RBI 2 15
Walks 2 8
Strikeouts 5 3
Left On Base 8 9
Top WVU Players
Top Batter
Top Pitcher
Justin Parks
3-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 SH
Billy Gross
8.0 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A nine-run scoring outburst in the eighth inning allowed the West Virginia University baseball team to pull away and defeat St. John’s, 16-2, on Saturday afternoon in the rubber game of a three-game series at Hawley Field.

WVU took its fourth consecutive BIG EAST series to start off the conference season, the first time it has accomplished such a feat since joining the BIG EAST in 1996.

The Mountaineers (25-7, 10-2) reached their double-digit mark in conference wins courtesy of a relentless offensive attack and a superb performance from starting right-hander Billy Gross (5-2).

Gross, a redshirt junior from Frederick, Md., won his fifth consecutive start on Saturday after throwing eight innings and giving up two runs on five strikeouts. After allowing a run in the first inning, the veteran settled in by maintaining his accuracy on the mound and allowing his fielders to make plays.

The eight hits that Gross gave up were through the first five innings, as the right-hander did his best work through the latter frames. Gross allowed one batter to reach base through the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to let the offense break away with its late-inning scoring burst.

WVU recorded 12 hits overall, marking its 27th double-digit hit performance in 32 games this season. The Mountaineers amassed 36 hits overall and outscored the Red Storm (19-12, 8-4), 30-15, in their three-game series.

WVU’s series victory also marks its first over St. John’s since winning two of three against the Red Storm in 2004.

Four multi-hit performances occurred during the afternoon, highlighted by Justin Parks’ 3-for-4 performance with two RBIs and two runs scored. Grant Buckner extended his hitting streak to 14 games and hit a two-run home run in the fifth, while Austin Markel notched his team-leading eighth round-tripper in the first inning to spark the Mountaineers.

Tobias Streich also tallied two hits and two RBIs. The top seven hitters were responsible for all of WVU’s hits on the afternoon.

St. Johns’ Brendan Lobban (3-2) took the loss after giving up six runs on seven hits in five innings pitched. The Red Storm was forced to use five pitchers overall, including three in the eighth inning.

Trailing 1-0 in the first, WVU tacked on three runs to quickly swing the momentum of the contest. Parks, who finished 6-for-11 in the series, started off with a bunt single, giving way to Markel’s two-run shot on a 2-2 pitch over the outer-half of the plate that traveled over the center field wall.

Leading 4-2 entering the fifth, Buckner’s third home run of the season gave WVU a key four-run advantage. With two outs, Streich reached base on an infield single, and Buckner delivered a two-run blast to left center on a changeup from Lobban.

Vince Belnome drove in Mark Dvoroznak in the sixth on a sacrifice fly to center field, making it 7-2. Belnome then registered his team-leading 50th RBI of the season on a run-scoring double in the eighth.

The Mountaineers’ 10-2 conference mark is their second-best start in BIG EAST play, behind their 11-1 start in 1997. WVU’s 25-7 overall record matches its best start through 32 regular season games in school history, tying the 2006 squad that finished 36-19.

WVU has now won 17 of its last 20 contests, and is 15-3 overall at Hawley Field. The Mountaineers return to the diamond on Monday, April 13, against Maryland Eastern Shore in Morgantown. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.