Rally Hats!

West Virginia battled back in the bottom of the ninth inning to top Connecticut 12-11 in a wild Big East conference game at Hawley Field on Saturday.

In a game that was twice delayed by lengthy rain showers, the Mountaineers entered the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 11-10. With two out and Jedd Gyorko on first base, Austin Markel hit a drive to deep center. UConn centerfielder Harold Brantley crashed into the wall in attempt to make the catch, and when he couldn't come up with the ball, Markel circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run and an improbable victory.

As it did in the series opener of Friday, West Virginia got off to a blazing early start. The Mountaineers scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning as Tyler Kuhn came home on Vince Belnome's RBI single and Joe Agreste chased home Kuhn and Gyorko with a triple to stake the Mountaineers to a 3-0 lead.

This time, however, UConn was able to respond. The visitors scored four runs in the top of the second around a rain delay, with the big blow a two-run homer, to take a 4-3 lead.

The momentum swung back toward the home team in the bottom of the frame, as Kuhn smashed a two-run blast of his own to bounce West Virginia back on top at 5-4. Kuhn's hit scored Justin Parks, who walked just ahead of the Mountaineer shortstop.

WVU appeared to take control of the game one inning later, as they scored four runs to move their lead out to 9-4. Tobias Streich started the scoring with an RBI double that scored Brent Lockhart. Streich then moved to third on a wild pitch, and was joined on the bases by Kuh, who walked. Freshman standout Gyorko followed with a three-run home run, his sixth of the year, and West Virginia looked to be in command.

However, UConn wasn't done yet. After trading runs with WVU in the sixth (Kuhn blasted another two-out home run, his second of the game, to restore WVU's lead to five at 10-5), the Huskies scored another run in the seventh before delivering a near-fatal blow in the eighth. A grand slam fueled a five-run outburst that put the Huskies on top at 11-10, but merely set the stage for Markel's two-out heroics in the bottom of the ninth.

Despite giving up the granny, West Virginia's Chris Enourato (5-0) gained the win by pitching the final one and two-thirds innings. Starter Stephen Morrison weathered the rocky second inning to pitch six and two-thirds, giving up six earned runs. He struck out eight and walked five.

Kuhn and Gyorko continued to pace the Mountaineer offense. Kuhn had three hits in all, driving in three runs while scoring four, while Gyorko also recorded three hits and three RBI while scoring three times. Agreste had two hits to go along with a like number of runs driven in.

With the win, WVU (31-11, 10-7) stayed in fifth place, a game ahead of Louisville (9-8) in the league standings. The Mountaineers are only two games out of second place.

The Mountaineers and Huskies wrap up the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Hawley Field.


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