A Hole Too Deep

WVU fell into the loser's bracket in the Big East baseball tournament after dropping a 12-4 decision to Notre Dame on Wednesday. The loss puts the Mountaineers on the brink of elimination from the tournament and the end of the season.

West Virginia again fell behind early, as Notre Dame plated three runs off starter Matt Yurish. Craig Cooper singled to lead off the game, and then advanced to second when Brett Lilley's high chopper to short left WVU's Doug Nelms with no play other than at first. Jeremy Barnes then singled to right to bring Cooper home with the first run of the game. Matt Barnes followed with two-run homer to right to clean things up and give Notre Dame the early cushion.

WVU, facing Notre Dame pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who is also an outstanding receiver on the Irish football team, showed that it wasn't about to back down. After retiring the first two batters, Samardzija hit Justin Jenkins with a pitch in the bottom of the first, and Stan Posluszny followed with a rocket to right center field that cleared the fence by just a few feet to cut the Irish lead to one.

Notre Dame played longball again two innings later, as Ross Bezovsky clouted a one-out, solo homer that rattled Yurish. The Mountaineer starter walked the next two batters he faced, and although he struck out Brett Lilley for the second out, both baserunners advanced on a dropped third strike. That allowed Barnes another chance to produce, and he responded with his second single of the game to put Notre Dame ahead 6-2. It also knocked Yurish from the game, bringing on relief pitcher Levi Maxwell, who gave up a walk and a wild pitch, but avoided further damage by striking out Greg Lopez to end the inning.

Following the shaky first, Samardzija settled into something of a groove. WVU put two runners aboard in both the second and third innings, but the Irish hurler, with the help of a double play in the second, kept the Mountaineers off the scoreboard. All that changed in the sixth, however, when West Virginia finally made good on another scoring opportunity. After Kyle Matuszek singled, Casey Bowling launched a drive to right center that just missed getting out of the park. The resulting double put runners on second and third, and apparently rattled Samardzija a bit. David Carpenter hit a short chopper to the left of the mound, and although Samardzija fielded it cleanly, he threw it past catcher Sean Gaston. Both runners scored, with Carpenter advancing to second.

After a Samardzija balk, WVU DH Michael Burger his a midrange fly ball to right that appeared deep enough to score Carpenter from third, but Notre Dame rightfielder launched a perfect throw to Gaston, who blocked the plate, applied the tag, and kept the Mountaineers from adding a third run in the inning.

The Irish made that point moot in the top of the seventh by taking advantage of uncharacteristic wildness on the part of Maxwell, who hit two batters after the getting two outs to start the inning. A wild pitch put those runners in scoring position at second and third, and both came home when Ross Brezovsky and Cody Rizzo produced RBI singles. Rizzo's hit spelled the end of Maxwell's solid relief effort. After stemming Notre Dame's scoring threat in the second, he pitched five innings before succumbing to the self-inflicted wounds that have been the biggest bugaboo for the Mountaineer staff this year.

Things didn't improve for Dan Leatherman, who induced what should have been an inning-ending pop up to short left. Shortstop Justin Jenkins was unable to handle the blooper, and two more runs scored to put the Irish up by 10-4. With the game decided Kevin Korzun came on to pitch the final two innings, giving up two more runs in the eights to account for the final score.

Casey Bowling was the only Mountaineer with more than one hit, going 2-4 on the evening. Yurish took the loss, dropping his record to 6-3 on the year.

West Virginia next faces St. John's, which it defeated in the opening round, Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Should the Mountaineers win that game, they would get a rematch against the Irish on Friday.

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