Baseball: WVU Sweeps Doubleheader
by Christopher Marshall for MSNsportsNET.com
March 24, 2007
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU baseball team swept a doubleheader from Seton Hall on a rain soaked Saturday afternoon at Hawley Field, winning game one 4-3 in 13 innings and game two 12-5. The games marked the start of Big East Conference play for both teams.
Game one was delayed 40 minutes due to early morning rain but when play finally began, Seton Hall (5-11, 0-2) wasted no time taking control. The Pirates scored a run in the first and third innings to grab an early 2-0 lead.
Seton Hall starter Corey Young did a terrific job of scattering Mountaineer hits and stranding base runners until the bottom of the seventh inning when sophomore centerfielder Adam White hit an RBI single and later scored himself on a Justin Jenkins double to center field to tie the game at 2-2.
A pitching duel ensued for the next six innings before Seton Hall’s John Walsh led off the 13th inning by belting a solo home run off Mountaineer reliever Billy Gross to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.
Undeterred, the Mountaineers rallied in the bottom half of the inning. Pirate reliever Luis Fernandez appeared primed to close West Virginia out, retiring the first two batters in order before Vince Belnome reached on a single and then moved up to second on a throwing error by Pirate shortstop Robbie Hine.
Austin Markel then singled to bring in Belnome and tie the game at 3-3. Seton Hall then turned to right hander Jesse Gwaltney who promptly walked Jason Pape and then gave up a walk-off RBI single up the middle to Justin White scoring Markel from second to complete a thrilling comeback for the Mountaineers.
“We just never gave up. We could have easily folded the tent in that first game when they hit the home run to go up 3-2,” West Virginia coach Greg Van Zant said. “They hit a 1-2 changeup that Billy (Gross) left up and the kid hit it out of the park but we just hung in there. I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”
Markel and junior Tyler Kuhn each went 3-for-4 while White knocked in two RBIs.
Fernandez (0-1) took the loss and allowed two runs on two hits in 4.1 innings of work.
Gross (3-0) was credited with the win as he allowed only one run on two hits while striking out five batters in 5.2 innings of relief.
In game two, Seton Hall again got off to a hot start, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning off a Greg Miller single.
West Virginia responded in the bottom of the second inning when catcher Justin Parks belted a double just out of the reach of a diving Dan Lopez in center field to score Mike Schmidt from first and cut the Pirate lead to 2-1. Pape then singled up the middle scoring Parks to even the score at 2-2.
The Mountaineers took control for good in the bottom of the fourth when Pape belted a three-run inside-the-park home run off the center field wall, scoring both Parks and Belnome to give WVU a 5-2 lead that it would not relinquish.
“Pape has really competed hard. Anytime your nine hitter can hit a three-run inside-the- park home run it’s awesome,” Van Zant said. “That was really the difference in the game. It broke open a tight game and then we were able to stay ahead.”
West Virginia got a solo homer from Jenkins and a two-run blast from Schmidt in the bottom of the eighth inning to erase any doubts in the 12-5 victory.
Pape knocked in an eye-popping six RBI in a game that saw every Mountaineer batter reach base safely.
Junior right-hander Levi Maxwell (4-0) picked up the win, allowing five runs on seven hits in his second complete game of the season.
“The pitchers did very well today. They through the ball in the strike zone and competed hard. Maxwell really gutted it out in that last game and threw the ball well,” Van Zant said.
Dan Merklinger (1-4) gets credit for the loss, allowing five runs on four hits in 3.2 innings of work.
“Our guys work all year for 27 conference games. It’s huge to be able to win our first two in the Big East,” Van Zant said. “This isn’t 162 game season like the major leagues, it’s 27 games. If you can start off above .500 and stay above .500 it makes it that much easier.”
West Virginia (12-5, 2-0) will close out the series with Seton Hall in a 1 p.m. contest on Sunday, March 25, at Hawley Field.
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