Sweet Sweep

West Virginia came up big in Saturday's doubleheader against Cincinnati, scoring wins in both ends of the twin bill to move into third place in the Big East conference. WVU's bats again boomed in the sweep, accounting for 24 runs and burying the visiting Bearcats under an avalanche of 28 hits.

In the opener, two big innings were the key in the WVU win in a game dominated by the long ball. Seven homers accounted for 11 of the 24 runs scored in the contest. The Mountaineers tallied five runs in the third and eight in seventh to break open a tight game and get a momentum-building win. Jedd Gyorko (2-5, three RBI, three runs) and Joe Agreste (2-5, four RBI) helped power the victory.

Cincinnati homered in the top of the first to take an early lead, but Austin Markel answered with one of his own to tie the score, and Dan DiBartolomeo pushed West Virginia in front with an RBI double to score Gyorko. That score just stood for one more inning, as Cincinnati again played long ball with a pair of two-run blasts to take the lead at 5-2. Again, however, West Virginia's bats boomed in response, as the Mountaineers topped UC's effort with five runs in the bottom half of the third, powered by Gyorko's three-run homer and Agreste's two-run single. That made the score 7-5, but again the visitors bounced back, this time with another two-run roundtripper which tied the score at seven.

At that point, the pitching staffs settled down a bit, allowing no runs over the next three innings. However, in the bottom of the seventh, the Mountaineers erupted against Cincinnati reliever Tyler Smith, scoring eight times. The floodgates opened on a throwing error by UC, and Agreste capped his stellar contest with a two-run double to continue the onslaught. In the meantime, WVU pitcher Chris Enourato, who came on in relief of starter Jarryd Summers in the seventh, pitched three innings of solid baseball to earn the win. He allowed just one earned run and struck out three, and snuffed out UC's final attempt at a comeback in the top of the ninth. His performance stood out in a game that featured, ten walks, five hit battters and a wild pitch.

The second game had a decidedly different character, as the Mountaineers nibbled away at the scoreboard and got an outstanding starting pitching effort in a 9-2 win. WVU scored in six of its eight at bats, and starter Jonathan Jones scattered seven hits, allowing just one earned run in 7 1/3 innings. He was consistently able to throw strikes and get outs with UC runners on base, and continually worked his way out of jams. Cincinnati wound up stranding 15 runners in the contest. Reliever Andy Altemus came on with one out in the eight to nail down the victory, allowing just one unearned run in the ninth.

West Virginia jumped on top in the first inning, as Justin Parks led off the game with a double. Although the Mountaineers didn't manage another hit in the inning, they did push Parks around to score via two groundouts to manufacture an early 1-0 lead. The pattern repeated itself in the fourth inning, when Austin Markel led off the inning with a triple, and came home on Jedd Gyorko's second RBI groundout of the game. That pushed the lead to 2-0, and set the stage for the Mountaineers' biggest inning of the nightcap.

Agreste again was a key contributor, singling and scoring on Colin Durburow's double. Justin Parks made it back-to-back two baggers with a run-scoring hit of his own, and Markel capped the inning with an RBI single to make the score 5-0. Single runs in the sixth and seventh pushed the advantage to 7-0, and when the Mountaineers responded to UC's single run in the eighth with two more of their own, the verdict was all but decided.

Every Mountaineer batter had at least one hit in the game, led by Markel and Gyorko, who tallied three each. Parks, Agreste and Durburow had two apiece, while Gyorko drove in three runs. His 3-5 evening pushed him back to the .400 mark on the season, joining DiBartolomeo (.415) and Vince Belnome (.406) above the magic mark. The Mountaineers continue to lead the Big East in hitting.

With the wins, WVU ((33-14, 15-8) broke a five-game losing streak to the Bearcats, and dropped UC (28-22, 11-12) into a three-way tie for seventh in the league standings. The Mountaineers are 1 ½ games behind second place Louisville and two behind USF, and hold a one-game edge over fourth-place St. John's. The top eight teams make the Big East tournament, which begins on May 18.

WVU closes out the three-game set with a 1:00 PM contest on Sunday, one of three games featuring five of the top six teams in the league. Louisville is at St. John's and Notre Dame is at USF, and with all the teams tightly bunched, each remaining league game is crucial. The Bulls and Cardinals have already clinched spots in the postseason, but even with its 33 wins the Mountaineers are still not assured of a spot in the tournament. They could, however, lock up a spot with a win in Sunday's series finale.

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