Mountaineers Stay Alive

By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
May 21, 2009

CLEARWATER, FLA. - Senior Austin Markel’s three-run home run in the seventh inning helped West Virginia defeat Pitt in seven innings, 20-8, on Thursday afternoon at the BIG EAST Championships at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. The 10-run rule was enforced following the seventh inning.

  Austin Markel slams his 14th home run of the season in the seventh inning of today's Big East tournament game against Pitt in Clearwater, Fla. West Virginia defeated the Panthers 20-8.
Big East Conference photo

Markel went 4 for 5 with two triples and a BIG EAST Championship record six RBI, breaking Louisville’s Justin McClanahan’s single-game record of five RBIs against Villanova in 2008. The All-BIG EAST Third Team member’s two triples gives him 17 for his career, passing former Mountaineer great Tyler Kuhn on the school’s all-time list.

The only other player to record two triples in a single game in conference tournament history was Rutgers’ Paul Galucci on May 14, 1997.

Equally important was Markel’s second three-bagger in the sixth, a three-run shot down the right field line that helped break open the game and give the Mountaineers (37-17) a six-run lead at 14-8.

WVU eclipsed the most runs in a BIG EAST Tournament contest, breaking the single-game record of 18 runs by Seton Hall against Villanova on May 15, 1987. The 28 runs scored by both teams is also a single-game tournament record, previously held by Rutgers (15) and Notre Dame (11) on May 24, 2003.

Jedd Gyorko amassed four hits, including his record-breaking 28th double of the season in the third frame that set a single-season school record formally held by Joe McNamee in 1998. The All-BIG EAST First Team player tallied four RBI, while Dan DiBartolomeo and Joe Agreste added three RBI apiece to lead WVU’s powerful effort.

DiBartolomeo also went 3 for 4 with two runs scored, while Vince Belnome went 3 for 5 with two RBI to keep his pace as the nation’s RBI leader with 84. Tobias Streich added two hits to give the Mountaineers five players with multi-hit performances.

WVU starter Billy Gross (9-4) got the win after giving up six earned run on eight hits in seven innings pitched. Gross’ victory makes him the 11th Mountaineer to record at least nine victories in one season.

Pitt’s Nathan Hood (0-3) took the loss in relief after giving up five runs in one inning.

Belnome’s 83rd RBI of the season got the Mountaineers going in the first. The Coatesville, Pa., native lined a single through the left side to score Justin Parks from second base. DiBartolomeo followed with a single up the middle that bounced past shortstop Joe Leonard, plating Gyorko to give WVU a 2-0 lead.

After battling with Pitt’s Chris Sedon through a 12-pitch at bat, Gross gave up a three-run home run to the junior from Plains, Pa., to give Pitt a 3-2 advantage in the bottom of the first. Gross battled back, however, to retire the next three batters.

The Panthers added another run in the second when Morgan Kielty hit a two-out single to left center to make it 4-2.

Markel began the third with a triple to left center. Gyorko then brought Markel home with a run-scoring double. Two more runs scored when Agreste’s bases-loaded grounder with two outs went through the legs of second baseman Sedon, giving WVU a 5-4 advantage.

Belnome came through with his second RBI of the afternoon in the fourth, driving home Markel on a single through the right side. DiBartolomeo then hit a line-drive sacrifice fly to the warning track in left field to plate Gyorko, making it 7-4.

A back-and-forth battle continued in the bottom half. Pitt countered with four runs (two unearned). Kielty began the scoring with an RBI infield single, and Kevan Smith drew a base-loaded walk to make it 7-6. Joe Leonard then lined a hard-hit ground ball that bounced off DiBartolomeo’s glove at third base for an error, scoring two runs to allow Pitt to retake the lead at 8-7.

Gyorko gave West Virginia the lead for good with a two-run single through the left side on a 2-2 pitch from reliever Hood, scoring Streich and Colin Durborow to make it 9-8.

WVU scored once again in the sixth as Agreste drew a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk to make it 10-8. DiBartolomeo began the frame with a single, and Buckner reached first base on a sacrifice bunt with an error by pitcher Hood. Streich then followed with a well-placed bunt single down the third base line to load the bases for Agreste.

Two batters later, Parks was hit by a pitch from Hood to bring in another run. After second reliever Ricky Breymier came in, Markel sliced a three-run triple down the right field line. Gyorko followed with a sacrifice fly to give WVU a 15-8 cushion.

WVU resumes action against the loser of USF and Connecticut, which is slated to begin at 4 p.m. The Mountaineers were scheduled to play tonight, but heavy rain will force them to play tomorrow at 4 p.m. with two games (USF-UConn, Notre Dame-St. John's) playing in front of them.