Granted, in baseball, "upsets" are more prevalent, simply due to the number of games played, and teams that can win most series it plays are likely to finish in a good spot overall. However, down the stretch, dropping games to the tenth-place team in the league is going to hurt, and that was exactly the result as West Virginia came out on the short end of a 12-7 decision to Rutgers on Saturday.
The Mountaineers (12-8) are still in fourth place in the league, but now trail third-place St. John's by 1 1/2 games and second place Louisville by two. Cincinnati moved to within a game of WVU in the standings, while UConn, Notre Dame and Pitt are all two behind the Gold and Blue. The top eight teams in the league make the Big East tournament, which begins on Tue., May 19.
Before getting there, however, there are still regular season games to be played, and WVU can't afford to stumble down the stretch as it did on Saturday. Rutgers got of to an early lead, and although West Virginia battled back on several occasions, it wasn't able to keep the Scarlet Knights from fashioning responses of their own.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first, the Mountaineers took their only lead of the game with three runs in the bottom of the second. WVU played small ball in this rally, scoring runs courtesy of two bunt singles, an infield hit and a passed ball to take a 3-2 lead.
Mountaineer starter Chase Pickering was unable to protect that lead, however, yielding three more runs in the top of the third. He did have five strikeouts in his 2 2/3 innings, but allowed five hits and five earned runs.
The game then settled into a back and forth affair, but WVU was never able to regain momentum or the lead. The Mountaineers scored once in the third to cut the margin to 5-4, but Rutgers bounced right back with two in the next inning. Austin Markel provided West Virginia's next answer with a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth, but that still left the Mountaineers down by two at 7-5. The teams again traded runs over the next two innings, but Rutgers put the contest away with four runs in the top of the eighth off reliever Andy Altemus.
West Virginia again missed several scoring chances, leaving ten runners on base. The Mountaineers had 12 hits in the contest, lead by Markel, Dan DiBartolomeo (two doubles), Grant Buckner and Colin Durburow, who all had two each. Markel and Buckner each drove in two runs, while DiBartolomeo scored three times.
The critical third game of the series is scheduled for noon on Sunday at Hawley Field. Following this game, WVU has three-game series remaining against Cincinnati and at Pitt.