Baseball: WVU Takes Villanova Series

  • March 29, 2009 04:02 PM
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By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
March 29, 2009

west virginia 7, villanova 4
villanova ballpark
plymouth meeting, pa.
West Virginia 0 1 2 0 0 1 1 1 1 7 10 0
Villanova 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 4 10 1
Stat Comparison
At-Bats 34 33
RBI 7 3
Walks 3 3
Strikeouts 7 8
Left On Base 6 8
Top WVU Players
Top Batter
Top Pitcher
Justin Parks
3-5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 2B, 1 HR
Billy Gross
7.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 4 R, 2 BB, 6 K

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. – Justin Parks went 3-for-5 and smacked one of West Virginia’s four home runs to lead the Mountaineers to a 7-4 victory over Villanova Sunday afternoon at Villanova Ballpark in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

West Virginia (18-6, 5-1) took the three-game series against the Wildcats following a 12-8 come-from-behind victory on Saturday. With the win and a St. John's loss to Georgetown today, dropping the Red Storm to 4-2 in the Big East, the Mountaineers hold first place in the league standings.

“Our big point of emphasis from the first day of the fall is if we were going to have any kind of success we have to be able to go on the road and win,” said West Virginia coach Greg Van Zant. “What it all comes down to is you have to have mature, tough, strike-throwers on the mound.

“The big difference this year is that the pitchers we have put on the mound have attacked the hitters instead of sitting back and waiting on teams to come back on us,” Van Zant said.

The Mountaineers pounded out 10 hits for the 20th time in 24 games this year, and starting pitcher Billy Gross settled down to earn his third win of the season after giving up two runs to start the game. Gross allowed nine hits and four earned runs in seven innings of work, striking out six and walking two.

“Billy has a real mature approach to pitching and even when he goes out and people hit him a little bit he just refuses to walk people,” Van Zant said. “A lot of times, just like today, he can settle in and pitch you deep into the game because he just keeps coming after the hitters.”

West Virginia answered Villanova’s two-run first with a run in the second. Then the Mountaineers retook the lead with two in the third. The Mountaineers got single runs in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

In addition to Parks’ solo blast in the ninth, Vince Belnome, Dan DiBartolomeo and Austin Markel homered - Markel hitting his team-leading fifth of the season.

“This is one of the hardest ballparks in the league to hit the ball out of. It’s graveyard out in center field and in the gaps and I’m a little bit amazed that we hit four home runs today,” Van Zant said. “We’ve come over here with some good hitting teams and not hit a single home run for the weekend.”

Gross handed the game over to reliever Chris Enourato in the eighth, and the junior closed the door on Villanova to earn his school-record 15th career save. Enourato allowed one hit and struck out two to collect his fourth save of the season.

“Chris isn’t going to be automatic but he gives you a chance,” Van Zant said. “We’re not expecting Chris to be perfect but he just goes out there and competes.”

Belnome finished 2-for-5 with his league leading 42nd RBI of the season.

Leadoff hitter Matt Szczur went 3-for-4 for Villanova, now 12-12, 1-5.

“Villanova’s pitching is really good and I think they are going to win a lot of games,” Van Zant said.

West Virginia’s 5-1 start in league play is its best since a 5-1 beginning to the 2006 season. By claiming its first two road series, the Mountaineers have now overcome an unbalanced league schedule that has them playing more road than home games this year.

“We can’t really worry about that, we’ve just got to play the games,” Van Zant said. “My experience in this league has been that over the course of a season if you can go on the road and avoid getting swept that will give you a chance to make the playoffs. If you can go on the road and win a couple that will give you a chance to get toward the top of the league.

“But to really win the league you’ve got to be able to go on the road and sweep some people and there is a lot of baseball still to be played. I’m just happy that after six games we’ve got five wins under our belts because Connecticut and Villanova are good baseball teams,” Van Zant said.

West Virginia returns to Hawley Field for a Tuesday afternoon game against Duquesne at 4 p.m.