WVU Clinches No. 3 Seed

By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
May 15, 2009


  Vince Belnome now holds the single-season record for RBIs with 82.
WVU Photography

PITTSBURGH - The West Virginia University baseball team clinched the No. 3 seed for next week’s BIG EAST Championship after splitting with Pitt in Friday’s doubleheader at Trees Field.

WVU’s 16-4 rout of Pitt in the second game gives them a 17-10 BIG EAST record, the most conference victories by the Mountaineers (36-16, 17-10) since 2003. WVU also clinched its highest seed since the 2003 squad headed into the postseason as the No. 2 seed.

The Mountaineers’ 36 wins ties the school record for the most victories in a regular season, which is shared by the 1998 team that went 36-15 prior to the BIG EAST Tournament.

WVU’s victory combined with St. John’s 15-8 loss on Saturday clinches its spot for third place in the conference. The Mountaineers entered the season picked to finish seventh in the Preseason BIG EAST Coaches’ Poll.

Vince Belnome had a productive day, finishing 4-for-9 with one home run and three RBIs. His single up the middle in the fourth inning in the second game gives him 82 RBIs on the season, eclipsing Mark Landers’ 81-RBI year in 1994 to set the new single-season record at WVU.

Game two was highlighted by 19 hits from the Mountaineers, their second-highest total in conference play this season and tied for their third-most overall. Dan DiBartolomeo led the way with a career-high six RBIs, including three hits and one home run.

Justin Parks garnered his fourth 4-hit performance of the season, going 4-for-5 with a solo home run, two RBIs and two doubles. Jedd Gyorko boosted his Wallace Award candidacy by going 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored. The Morgantown native laced a two-run single up the middle in WVU’s six-run fourth frame to contribute to another potent offensive performance for the Mountaineers.

Tobias Streich added four RBIs in game two, the fifth time this season he has driven in at least four runs. Joe Agreste contributed with two hits and two RBIs, driving in two runs on a single to center field in WVU’s seven-run fifth inning.

Starting right-hander Billy Gross (8-4) was effective in his final regular season outing. The Frederick, Md., native had another quality start, giving up just two earned runs on seven hits in six innings pitched.

WVU made a valiant comeback attempt in the first game of today’s doubleheader, trailing by scores of 7-1 through two innings and 10-4 through four innings. However, the Mountaineers tallied five runs in the seventh inning to tie the game at 11-11. Parks started the scoring in the frame by hitting a two-run single through the right side, and Austin Markel hit a critical two-run triple to right center, his fifth of the season.

Gyorko followed with an RBI groundout to tie the score, but Pitt responded with one run in the eighth on an RBI double down the right field line by Morgan Kielty to make it 12-11.

WVU came back with one run in the ninth, as Markel hit a sacrifice fly to left field to plate Agreste. However, Joe Leonard hit an RBI single up the middle in the bottom half to give Pitt a 13-12 walk-off win.

The tournament field for the top three seeds has been set. Louisville’s three-game sweep over USF gives the Cardinals the regular season conference championship, while the Bulls sit as the No. 2 seed. WVU follows with the third spot, while the winner of the St. John’s-Notre Dame game on Saturday earns the No. 4 seed, and the loser drops to the fifth spot.

The No. 6, 7 spots between Pitt and Connecticut will not be known until UConn wraps up its conference season on Saturday against Villanova. The Huskies clinched a spot in the conference tournament yesterday, and Pitt’s walk-off victory over WVU in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader allowed it to clinch a spot as well.

The Mountaineers will play UConn if the Huskies defeat Villanova. If UConn loses, WVU will face Pitt in its first round matchup.

Cincinnati is the No. 8 seed after defeating Seton Hall, 6-5, in the rubber matchup in Friday's doubleheader.

The BIG EAST Championship begins on Tuesday, May 19, at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. WVU will play its opponent in the first game of the tournament beginning at 10 a.m.