MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On “Senior Day” at Hawley Field, the West Virginia University baseball team used an offensive outburst to defeat Rutgers 14-5 in the final game of the regular season. The win secured WVU a winning regular season, as well as a winning conference record.
“It was big that we got the bats going and we needed to win that game because it guaranteed us a winning season,” coach Greg Van Zant said. “We take a lot of pride in winning and that win was as big as any we’ve ever had here.”
The Mountaineers secured the fourth seed in the BIG EAST Championship and will play No. 5 Seton Hall on Wednesday evening at 5 p.m. in Clearwater, Fla. West Virginia was tied for fourth place with Cincinnati, Louisville and Seton Hall, but had the tie-breaker when the teams were split into a mini-conference.
“The teams that win these tournaments are the teams that go every year,” Van Zant said. “If you go once in awhile, it’s hard to win the tournament, but if you keep going, keep going and keep going, at some point you get hot on the weekend and you win the thing.”
Seniors Andy Berry, Marcus Broadwater, Grant Buckner, Colin Durborow, Mark Dvoroznak, Kevin Griffin, Jeremy Gum, Jonathan Hash, Justin McDavid and Matt Morrone were all recognized for their contributions prior to first pitch.
The group has accumulated 127 career victories since 2008 and joins the 1999 squad as the only other group of seniors to go to four BIG EAST Championships.
Buckner continued to lead the offense with a 2-for-4 performance, including a grand slam home run, five RBIs, two runs and two walks. Buckner extended his reaching base streak to 47 games, the fourth longest in the country.
In his first game back from injury, redshirt junior Dan DiBartolomeo finished 4 for 5 with a home run, three runs and three RBIs. Gum went 2 for 4 with a run and was hit by a pitch for the 23rd time this season, while sophomore Chris Rasky was 1 for 4 with a run and was hit by two pitches. Rasky has been hit 14 times this season, second on the team behind Gum. Every Mountaineer starter recorded at least one hit, with four starters having multiple hit afternoons.
“We’ve been really struggling offensively lately and a big boost was we got Dan DiBartolomeo back in the lineup today and his presence was felt,” Buckner said. “We scored 14 runs going into the conference tournament, that’s big.”
Berry (8-3) pitched seven strong innings and allowed just three runs on eight hits, while striking out three. Freshman Ryan Tezak entered the game in the eighth inning and allowed two runs on six hits in two innings of work.
West Virginia (28-25, 14-13) scored 14 runs on 15 hits with no errors and Rutgers (20-30, 11-16) had five runs on 14 hits with one error in its final game of the season.
The Mountaineers jumped on Rutgers early, scoring 10 runs in the first three innings to take a 10-0 lead.
Sophomore Brady Wilson, DiBartolomeo and Buckner led off with three-consecutive singles, with Buckner’s driving in Wilson. Gum then walked to load the bases, while a single from McDavid advanced the runners and scored DiBartolomeo. Freshman Isac Franklin hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Buckner to bring the inning total to 3-0 in favor of West Virginia.
In the second inning, DiBartolomeo hit a home run to left field that scored Dvoroznak to make it 5-0 WVU. The homer was DiBartolomeo’s sixth of the season and his second hit of the afternoon.
Buckner led the scoring attack in the third inning with a grand slam to left center field, his eighth home run of the season. The blast drove in DiBartolomeo, Wilson and Dvoroznak. Sophomore Matt Malloy had also scored earlier in the previous at bat after a DiBartolomeo single to center field.
The Mountaineers added to the lead in the bottom of the fifth, making the score 12-1. Franklin had an RBI single to right field scoring Gum, while Rasky was driven in by Malloy, who hit a rocket off of the Rutgers pitcher’s hip.
The Scarlet Knights used six different pitches, with starter Ryan Fasano taking the loss in 1.1 innings. Fasano allowed five runs on six hits and walked two.
At the plate, Rutgers was led by D.J. Anderson who was 3 for 5 with two runs, while Brian O’Grady, Jarrett Schack and Michael Zavala each had two hits apiece.