Unluck of the Irish

West Virginia broke its lengthy losing streak to Notre Dame by hammering the Irish 16-7 on Sunday.

West Virginia's bats spoke loudly on Sunday, as the league-leading hitting squad (.337 coming into the weekend) pounded out 20 hits to win in South Bend for the first time since 2003. Eight Mountaineers had multiple hits on the afternoon, led byJusting Jenkins' 4-6 performance.

Early on, the game was a back and forth affair, as each team teed off on the opposing pitchers to dent the scoreboard time and again. West Virginia started off with a single run on the first when Adam White, who led off with a hit, came around on Tyler Kuhn's hit, a passed ball and an Adam Markel sacrifice fly. The Irish quickly responded, however, scoring three runs off WVU starter Kenny Durst to take a 3-1 lead. A solo home run in the second pushed the lead to 4-1 before the Mountaineers roared back in the top of the fourth.

Markel got things started with a walk, then three consecutive hits, including back-to-back doubles from Vince Belnome and Jordon Yost, accounted for three runs. Yost later scored on an error to give WVU the lead at 5-4, but that advantage was again short lived. Three Irish hits and a Mountaineer error accounted for two Notre Dame runs that put the home team back on top in the bottom of the fourth with just one out. That uprising chased Durst, and brought on freshman reliever Chris Enourato, who got out of the jam without further damage.

The seesaw titled back in West Virginia's direction in the top of the fifth, as Yost came up with a clutch two out single to score Markel and Jenkins and vault the Mountaineers back on top by the count of 7-6. But once again, the Irish responded, this time in the bottom of the sixth inning with an RBI single that knotted things up at 7-7. That run was the only one allowed by Enourato, who gave up just three hits in 5 2/3 innings of excellent relief work. He struck out two batters while walking just two, and was finally able to check Irish bats, which had bludgeoned Mountaineer pitching all weekend.

Bolstered by Enourato's performance, West Virginia continued to batter Irish pitching. Jenkins doubled, Trent Ridgley dropped down a bunt single that brought him home, then Belnome ripped another double to score the WVU DH. Mike Schmidt then brought Belnome home with WVU's third run of the inning to give the Mountaineers a 10-7 lead.

Given West Virginia's history against the Irish, that lead certainly wasn't safe, and the Mountaineers didn't play as if it were, either. Back-to-back doubles from Jenkins and Markel added a run in the eighth, then WVU removed all doubt with a monster five-run ninth.

Belnome, Yost and Schmidt started the inning with singles to produce one run, then Adam White drove in the latter two with yet another double. Kuhn brought White home with a hit, and Justing Jenkins moved him to third with his fourth hit of the day. From there, Kuhn scurried home on a passed ball to complete the Mountaineer rout.

West Virginia added to its league-leading doubles total, ripping seven on the afternoon. WVU also leads the Big East in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Yost accounted for four RBI, with White, Markel, Belnome and Schmidt adding two more apiece. Belnome and Yost each had three hits for WVU, which moved back into a seventh-place tie with the Irish at 6-8 in the league standings. However, Notre Dame, by virtue of its wins in the first two games, holds the tiebreaker over West Virginia for conference tournament participation and seeding purposes. The top eight teams in the league make the conference tournament.

West Virginia, which holds a 1 1/2 game lead over Villanova, Seton Hall and Connecticut for the last playoff spot, faces Maryland in a non-conference tilt at home on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. The Mountaineers have four three-game conference series left, including matchups against both the Pirates and the Huskies.


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