Slipping Away

West Virginia saw its Big East tournament hopes slip a bit further from its grasp when it couldn't hold on to a three-run lead against Villanova on Saturday.

West Virginia, battling with the Wildcats for one of the final spots in the eight-team league tournament, looked to be in fine shape through five innings. However, Villanova rallied for a 6-4 win to give them yet another leg up in the postseason race.

After yielding a run to the Wildcats in the fist, West Virginia took the lead with three runs in third. With Tyler Kuhn aboard and two out, Austin Markel singled to move Kuhn to third, and Trent Ridgley followed with another clutch hit to score Kuhn. Markel scored on a bad throw from centerfield on the play, which also put Ridgley to third. Jordon Yost cleaned up with a rining RBI double to give WVU its final run of the inning.

The same group of players set up another run in the fifth, when Markel singled to lead off the inning. Ridgley was then ordered to execute another ill-advised sacrifice bunt, which cost West Virginia an out it could have sorely used latter in the inning. Yost's groundout moved Markel to third, and Jason Pape's double brought him home. Mike Schmidt then popped up for the third out of the inning, which could have been just the second had the sacrifice not been called.

The Wildcats, who scratched out just the lone run through the first four innings (and sent just ten batters to the plate over the final three of that group), cut into WVU's lead in the bottom of the inning, putting together another run on a hit, a stolen base, a wild pitch and a groundout. Still, starting pitcher Josh Whitlock still seemed to be in command. Even when the 'Cats crept closer with another since run in the seventh, it seemed as if Whitlock had enough to round out the win.

In the meantime, however, West Virginia's bats went quiet. Willanova pitcher Mike Loree allowed just one hit over the final four innings, which allowed his teammates to get him back into the game.

It all fell apart for WVU (or came together for Villanova) in the bottom of the eighth. A walk and a single put two aboard, but Whitlock momentarily steadied by getting an out on a sacrifice and a groundout that let in one run, but put two outs on the board. Then the roof fell in.

A wild pickoff attempt brought in the tying run, and a hit batsman, a stolen base and a double put the go-ahead run aboard. WVU catcher Mike Schmidt gunned down a potential basestealer for the third out, but the damage was done. WVU went meekly in the ninth to give the win to the home team.

Markel, Yost and Chris Enourato each had two hits for West Virginia, which had more sacrifice hits (three) than extra base hits (two). Whitlock allowed six earned runs while striking out seve, but also yielded five walks as well as a hit batsman.

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