Baseball: WVU Rally Comes Up Short
By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University baseball team staged a furious rally after falling behind by 11 runs through the fifth inning, but lost to No. 24 Pitt, 13-9, on Friday evening in front of 1,012 fans at Hawley Field.
Tonight’s crowd was the fifth-largest in Hawley Field’s 39-year history, and the highest since WVU had a crowd of 1,058 against Notre Dame on April 18, 2008.
The Mountaineers (17-21, 3-10) succumbed to a potent Pitt offense that carried a .363 team batting average entering tonight’s game. The Panthers (28-10, 10-3) gained the early advantage by coming up with big innings, scoring four in the third frame, three runs apiece in the second and fifth innings and two in the fourth.
“We fell behind early through those first four or five innings, but our guys didn’t quit,” coach Greg Van Zant said. “We made a resilient comeback against a good baseball team tonight, and hopefully some of that momentum can carry over to tomorrow afternoon.”
WVU trailed 12-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, but managed to score eight runs over the next two innings off Pitt ace Corey Baker (9-1). The right-hander got the victory for the Panthers, but allowed nine runs on 11 hits in 6.2 innings pitched.
In the sixth, junior Dom Hayes led off with a double down the right field line, then advanced to third base on a single up the middle by Grant Buckner. Justin McDavid then reached on a fielder’s choice that brought in Hayes, and two batters later Chris Rasky drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in another run.
Colin Durborow followed with a two-run double to right center, and Jedd Gyorko finished the scoring with a sacrifice fly to left field, his team-leading 44th RBI of the season. Gyorko’s RBI leaves him two shy of tying former Mountaineer Mark Landers for fourth on the school’s career list.
McDavid led off the second inning with a single up the middle to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. He finished 1-for-5 with one RBI and two runs scored.
Rasky led the Mountaineers at the plate by going 2-for-3 with four RBIs and two runs scored. He extended the rally in the seventh inning when he hit a two-out, three-run home run over the right field wall to put the Mountaineers within striking distance at 12-9. Rasky homered in his second consecutive game and matched his career-high RBI total of four that he set against Duquesne last Tuesday.
Hayes was one of four Mountaineers to finish with two hits, recording his team-leading 22nd multiple-hit game of the season. Buckner went 2-for-5 with one run scored, and designated hitter Jeremy Gum finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
Left-hander Jonathan Jones relieved WVU starter Andy Altemus (3-5) with one out in the fourth inning. Jones immediately induced a ground-ball double play by catcher Cory Brownstein, and tamed the Panthers while WVU scored eight unanswered runs.
Jones threw 5.2 innings and gave up three earned runs on nine hits with three strikeouts. After allowing three runs in the fifth frame, the Fredericksburg, Va., native settled down and pitched two straight scoreless innings.
Altemus’ first start of the season was also his 21st appearance this year, putting him in sole possession of third place on WVU’s single-season appearances list. He needs three more outings to break Ashley Shope’s record of 23 in 1995.
The Panthers may have scored their most important run in the eighth inning. With two outs and pinch runner Philip Konieczny on first base, an errant pickoff throw allowed him to reach third base. Konieczny then scored on a wild pitch, and Zach Duggan and John Schultz followed with a hit-by-pitch and walk, respectively, to load the bases. Jones regained his composure and struck out Joe Leonard to prevent further damage.
Leonard led the Panthers offensively, going 4-for-6 with two home runs and three RBIs. Every position starter for Pitt recorded at least one base hit tonight, and its 19 base hits are tied for the second-most allowed by the Mountaineers this season.
WVU produced 12 base hits on the evening, marking the eighth time in the last 10 games that it has amassed a double-digit hit total. Defensively, the Mountaineers put themselves in an early hole and finished with four errors, tying for their second-most this season.
Pitt reliever J.R. Leonardi pitched the final 2.1 innings and did not allow a run to earn his fourth save of the year.
WVU and Pitt square off in game two on Saturday, April 24, at 3 p.m. at Hawley Field.