Belnome Makes History in WVU Victory
By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Junior Vince Belnome produced the best single-game offensive performance in West Virginia University baseball history as WVU routed Cincinnati, 18-3, on Sunday afternoon at Hawley Field.
Belnome finished the day 6-for-6 with two home runs, nine RBIs and four runs scored. The Coatesville, Pa., native’s six hits are a single-game school record while his nine runs driven in tie both Bill Biddle’s nine RBIs on May 9, 1947, as well as Angelo Onder’s RBI total on May 23, 1936.
The junior now has 77 RBIs in 2009, sitting just five shy of breaking Mark Landers’ 81-RBI season in 1994. Belnome also jumped his batting average by 19 points on the afternoon, carrying a .425 clip heading into Monday’s home finale against Youngstown State.
His nine runs driven in ties Louisville’s Chris Dominguez (3/6 vs. Milwaukee) for the most in a single game by a BIG EAST player this season. Belnome’s six hits also ties Tim Morris (4/7 vs. Wagner) of St. John’s for the most this year by a conference player.
Dan DiBartolomeo amassed five hits with one RBI and one double to record his second career five-hit performance, with the first coming against New Jersey Tech this season on March 8. The Margate, N.J., native now carries a team-leading .429 average.
Six WVU players recorded multi-hit performances, including the first five batters in Justin Parks (2-for-6), Austin Markel (2-for-4), Jedd Gyorko (2-for-4), Belnome and DiBartolomeo. Joe Agreste capped an impressive weekend by going 2-for-5 with three RBIs and a double, giving him six hits in 14 at-bats with eight RBIs in three games this weekend.
Markel’s RBI single in the fourth inning gave him his 200th career hit, becoming the 13th player in school history to reach the milestone. Parks sits one hit shy from giving WVU its third player to reach the 200-hit mark this season, something that has never happened in school history.
The Mountaineers (34-14, 16-8) are on the brink of equaling their most wins in regular season play, which is 36 by the 1998 squad. WVU needs to win three of its final four regular season contests against Youngstown State and Pitt to better the mark.
WVU amassed 20 hits in its victory, the most recorded in conference play this season and the second-highest overall in 2009. The Mountaineers broke their previous high of 16 hits in game two of yesterday’s doubleheader, where they defeated Cincinnati, 9-2.
Lost amidst WVU’s offensive showcase was the pitching of right-hander Billy Gross (7-4). The Frederick, Md., native held the Bearcats (26-26, 11-13) to three runs on eight hits in 7.1 innings pitched.
Reliever Andrew Saab made his fourth appearance in the eighth inning and induced two key outs with the bases loaded to get the Mountaineers out of a potential jam. Freshman Andy Podolinski entered in the ninth inning, giving up one hit and striking out one to help preserve the victory.
WVU’s victory compounded with St. John’s 19-15 win over Louisville puts the Mountaineers behind the Cardinals by ½ game for second place. WVU sits two games behind conference leader USF after the Bulls salvaged their three-game set against Notre Dame with a 6-5 victory.
The Mountaineers are in prime position to earn their first top-four seed at the conference tournament since 2003, when they entered the postseason as a No. 2 seed. Finishing in the top four of the BIG EAST regular season standings allows a team to be the designated home squad for its first round game.
Belnome hit a three-run home run to left center on a 1-1 offering from Garman in the top inning to give the Mountaineers a 3-0 lead. Colin Durborow was responsible for WVU’s other run by drawing a bases loaded walk to put WVU at a 4-0 advantage.
Chris Hough of Cincinnati came back with an RBI groundout to first base to score Jimmy Jacquot from third base, making it 4-1.
Agreste continued his hot stretch with a crucial three-run double to left center with two outs, giving WVU a 7-1 lead. Earlier in the frame, Belnome laced an RBI single to right center to contribute toward WVU’s four runs in the second inning.
Gyorko hit his 27th double of the season to left center in the third inning, scoring Justin Parks from second base. Gyorko’s two-bagger ties Joe McNamee for the most doubles in one season in school history, with McNamee producing 27 in 1998.
Belnome followed with his fifth RBI of the game on a run-scoring single to center field to plate Gyorko, giving WVU a nine-run cushion at 10-1.
WVU rattled off four runs in the fourth as Durborow scored off a fielding error by Bearcats right fielder Kendal Coleman, who misplayed Markel’s single and allowed both runners to advance a base. Two batters later, Belnome hit his second home run of the game, a three-run shot to center field to make it 14-1.
The Mountaineers capped their scoring outburst with two runs apiece in the sixth and seventh innings. DiBartolomeo laced an RBI double to center field, and Grant Buckner followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to extend the lead to 16-3. Markel doubled down the right field line in the seventh to bring in a run, and Belnome tied the single-game RBI record with a single up the middle to plate Markel.
WVU comes back with its home finale against Youngstown State on Monday, May 11, at Hawley Field. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.