Headed for Playoffs

Doug Nelms was 5-5 at the plate and Kenny Durst turned in a sparkling pitching performance as West Virginia completed a three-game sweep of Cincinnati in a crucial Big East series to earn a spot in the conference post-season tournament.

Nelms had four singles and a double, scored two runs and drove in two more to key the West Virginia offense which overwhelmed the Bearcats by the score of 10-1 in the series finale. He was backed up at the bottom of the order by Casey Bowling, David Carpenter, and Michael Burger, who each had three hits in the sixth through the eighth spots in the lineup.

Of course, "bottom of the order" is a relative term for WVU's team this year, as the Mountaineers are dangerous offensively up and down the lineup. That was shown again on Sunday, as the trio combined for five RBI and three runs scored in the rout.

Tyler Kuhn led off the scoring by coming home on Justin Jenkins' single in the first. Two innings later, WVU manufactured three runs on four singles, two bunts and a hit batsman to push its lead to 4-0 -- a margin that was more than sufficient for the afternoon's work.

WVU wasn't finished, however, as it added two runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to push its total to ten runs. Only a sacrifice fly by UC's Nick Maragas in the sixth prevented a West Virginia whitewash.

The game mirrored Friday's 9-1 WVU win, when the Mountaineers paired an excellent pitching performance with its usual lusty hitting to get a blowout win. This time, it was Kenny Durst who turned in the solid performance, going 7 2/3 innings and allowing only the one unearned run.

Durst allowed eight hits, but yielded just two walks and one hit batsman during his stint on the mound. He did not have a dominating performance, but again made good pitches during key situations to keep UC off the board. Although WVU committed three errors behind him, it also produced a double play to remove him from one jam and, like Durst, made the key plays when necessary.

The Mountaineers also again got excellent relief pitching, this time from Levi Maxwell, who came in for Durst with two on and two out in the eighth. Maxwell induced an inning-ending fly ball, then got a ground ball double play to end the game after yielding the only hit of his appearance.

When West Virginia combines pitching of the sort it got from Durst with its potent offense, it is hard to beat. WVU spanked 18 hits on Sunday in sending 46 batters to the plate, and again spread the wealth up and down the lineup. Once again, eight of West Virginia's nine batters had at least one hit, and eight scored at least one run as well.

West Virginia's fortunes in the Big East tournament will likely depend on its pitching, as the Mountaineers have proven they can hit against just about any pitcher it has faced. Performances such as those they received in Games one and three against UC will give them a chance to do serious damage when the tournament begins on May 23.

Before the tournament gets underway, WVU will close out the regular season with a three-game series against South Florida next weekend.

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