Baseball Splits Four-Game Series

West Virginia's baseball team opened the season with a series split against Akron - a mild disappointment to head coach Greg Van Zant.

The Mountaineers had a chance to take the set and extend their winning streak to three, but instead fell to Akron 3-2 at Ernie Shore Field in Winston-Salem on Sunday, splitting its four-game season-opening series with the Zips.

WVU (2-2) had its chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Trailing 3-1, and with no outs, the Mountaineers had the bases loaded when junior Joe Agreste reached first on a fielder's choice that forced out Austin Markel at home plate on the play. Senior Justin Parks then drove in pinch runner Colin Durburow from third base with a sacrifice fly-out to center field. Trailing 3-2, with two outs and runners on second and third, senior Tyler Kuhn grounded out to second base, ending game.

Van Zant said the team certainly felt it should have won the game, which would have given it three straight victories and momentum heading into a tournament at Myrtle Beach from Feb. 29-March 2. Instead, West Virginia is looking to get back over .500 and pick up key wins in the early portion of the non-conference schedule.

Kuhn had scored the lone run for WVU in a 5-1 loss in the season-opener on Feb. 23. It rebounded from that with 11-3 and 2-1 wins in a double-header on Saturday. Austin Markel hit two home runs to pace the Mountaineers. In game one, Akron's Drew Tuorcy and Phil Bednar crossed the plate for the Zips in the top of the second inning, before Markel hit a home run over right field, his first of the season, and close the inning with a 3-1 lead for the Zips.

The Mountaineers came alive in the bottom of the fourth inning, hitting six doubles in eight hits, scoring nine runs, vaulting WVU into the lead, 10-3. With Markel on third and Tobias Streich on second, Grant Buckner doubled down the left field line to drive in two. Buckner then scored off of an RBI double by junior Joe Agreste, who then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mark Dvoroznak. Senior Tyler Kuhn then hit a double to right field, driving home Agreste for the fifth run of the game. Gyorko doubled to left field to plate Kuhn, before scoring off of an RBI by Chris Enourato. With Vince Belnome on third, Markel singled to right field to drive in Kuhn, and Enourato advanced to third base. Streich flew out to score Enourato, before Buckner doubled to left center, recording an RBI and the ninth run of the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Markel hit his second home run over the right fielder's head to record the sixth of his career, putting the West Virginia up 11-3 to provide the final margin. Markel finished the game with four runs, which surpassed his record of three set on March 10, 2006 against St. Peter's. His two home runs also set a new personal best for the junior.

Whitlock earned the win for the Mountaineers, pitching five innings. The junior allowed three runs in 19 batters faced. Akron's Zach Yike took the loss in 3.1 inning pitched. The Zip allowed eight hits and six runs in 15 at bats.

In game two, the Zips took an early lead when Brett Savage scored off of a Doug McNulty RBI single in the top of the first inning. They held a 1-0 lead until the bottom of the fifth inning. Streich walked , Kuhn bunted and reached first on a fielder's choice, before Belnome came up to bat and singled. Markel was hit by a pitch and helped the Mountaineers tie the score, 1-1. It stayed that way until the seventh - and final - inning, when WVU loaded the bases in the last half. Pinch-hitter senior Jordon Yost flew out to left field, allowing Gyorke to cross the plate, giving the Mountaineers the win.

Sophomore closer Chris Enourato earned the win in two innings with just one hit and facing nine batters. Akron pitcher Garrett Knoll took the loss also in two innings, allowing three hits and one run and eight batters faced. West Virginia next faces Western Carolina Feb. 29 before meeting Marshall March 1.

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