Worth The Wait

West Virginia had to wait three days to get in a pair of games against Valparaiso, but the Mountaineers didn't let the layoff affect their hitting eye as they dented the scoreboard for 18 runs in a pair of victories.

In the opener, West Virginia backed up another outstanding pitching performance from Josh Whitlock with five runs in the first four innings on the way to a 7-2 win. Whitlock, who moved to 3-0 on the season, allowed just two runs on five hits while striking out five in the seven-inning contest. Whitlock didn't have the greatest of control, as he walked five batters, hit another and uncorked a wild pitch (which allowed Valpo's second run) but he battled out of a couple of jams early on to keep the Crusaders in check.

In the meantime, WVU got cooking at the plate early. Shortstop Tyler Kuhn led off the first with a walk and came around to score on a single and an error. The Mountaineers up their lead to 2-0 one inning later when Joe Agreste tripled and came home on a throwing error by Valpo pitcher Elliott Gibbs.

West Virginia responded to a Crusader home run by scoring three runs in the fourth. Catcher Tobias Streich singled, was sacrificed to second, moved to third on a flyout, then came home on Dan DiBartolomeo's single. DiBartolomeo promptly stole second, then cruised home on Tyler Kuhn's triple. Freshman Jedd Gyorko completed the scoring in the frame by singling home Kuhn.

WVU added a single run in the fifth as Josh Markel doubled, moved to third on the ubiquitous Mountaineer sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Streich's single. Valpo responded with its final run in the sixth, but WVU tallied again as DiBarolomeo, who reached after being hit by a pitch, was sacrificed to second, and scored on Vince Belnome's single.

Gyorko, Belnome and Streich each finished with two hits of WVU's ten hit attack. The Mountaineers had had three sacrifice hits, but also showed some aggressivemess with three stolen bases.

The hits kept coming in the nightcap as West Virginia pounded out 13 hits and 11 runs to complete the sweep with an 11-8 victory. The Mountaineers had to withstand a late rally by the Crusaders to preserve the victory.

At first, it looked as if the Mountaineers would cruise to another win. WVU scored three runs, courtesy of Gyorko's solo home run and Justin Parks' two-RBI single, in the third, and after a two-run Valpo rally, moved the lead out to 6-2 with three more runs in the fourth. Markel's triple (WVU's second of the day) drove home Jordon Yost and Belnome, and Streich's single brought Markel home for the final run of the inning.

After Valpo added a run in the seventh, WVU seemingly put the game out of reach with five runs in the seventh. Gyorko, who has hit since day one in a Mountaineer uniform, drove in two runs with a single, and Belnome duplicated the feat with a two-RBI double that plated Gyorko and Kuhn. Yost's second consecutive scoring hit brought home Belnome for WVU's final run.

Valpo wasn't finished, however. Trailing by seven, the visitors pushed four runs across and had the tying run at the plate with no outs when Chris Enourato, who had come on earlier in the inning in relief, got two strikeouts sandwiched around a fly ball out to earn a save and deliver the win to starter Steven Morrison. Morrison pitched 7 1/3 innings, yielding six hits and six walks while striking out three.

West Virginia continues its lengthy homestand with a two-game mid-week series against St. Bonaventure, on Tuesday, March 11 at 5 p.m., and Wednesday, March 12, at 2 p.m.

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