Gophers Dig Deeper

West Virginia fell behind early, rallied, but gave up two late runs to fall to Minnesota in its second game of the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in Florida on Saturday.

Minnesota took a page from West Virginia's Friday game, jumping on WVU starter Stephen Morrison for two runs in the top of the first. A Matt Nohelty walk and a wild pitch, followed by a Mike Kvasnicka double plated the first run. Derek McCallum followed with a single to score Kvasnicka. Justin Ellis then came on in relief to stem the tide, and did so beautifully with a strikeout, flyout and groundout to limit the Gopher damage to just two runs. WVU again shot itself in the foot in the second, however, allowing a unearned run on an error, a popup, a fly ball out and a run-scoring single. That put the Mountaineers down by 3-0.

West Virginia, meanwhile, missed numerous chances to score in the first four innings. The Mountaineers left seven runners on base and just couldn't come up with the key hit needed to get on the scoreboard. However, they finally broke through in the fifth to tie the game at three, and as will often be the case this year, the rally was sparked by shortstop Jedd Gyorko. With one out, he singled, then moved to second on Vince Belnome's hit. Joe Agreste got the first key hit of the day for WVU, doubling to right to score Gyorko and move Belnome to third. Belnome then scored on a passed ball, and Agreste came home to tie that game at three when catcher Tobias Streich grounded out.

The score remained knotted until the seventh, when the Gophers strung together three hits to edge ahead at 4-3. WVU turned a double play to avoid further damage, and then rallied again in the bottom of the frame. Once again it was Gyorko, this time blasting a home run to left field to knot the score at four-all.

The pattern of the game again repeated itself, as Minnesota scored a single run in the top of the eighth. Two singles and two walks combined to force in the winning run and give Big Ten the win on the afternoon. WVU was unable to muster any offense in the final two innings, as they dropped to 1-1 on the season.

Billy Gross took a tough loss, giving up two earned runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked two. Justin Ellis turned in the best pitching performance of the day, yielding just four hits and one run (unearned) in 5 ½ innings. He struck out one and did not walk a batter.

Joe Agreste was 3-4, including two doubles, and had an RBI and a run scored. Grant Buckner, Vince Belnome and Gyorko had two hits apiece. Gyorko scored two runs, walked and had the game's only roundtripper. West Virginia left a total of ten runners on base in the contest.

WVU continues play on Sunday at 1:00 PM against Illinois.

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