Flat Opener

West Virginia has already clinched a spot in the Big East tournament, but it didn't do itself any favors in terms of seeding or bragging rights as it dropped an ugly 9-1 decision to Pitt on Thursday afternoon.

The Mountaineers, trying to finish as high as possible for home team advantage in the tournament, managed ten hits, but could not push a run across the plate until the ninth inning, when they were buried under a 9-0 deficit. WVU left nine runners on base as Pitt starter Nate Reed managed to get outs in key situations to keep the Mountaineers off the board.

WVU missed a chance to jump out on top early when Jedd Gyorko was cut down at the plate trying to score on Vince Belnome's single to left field, and that missed opportunity seemed to set the tone for the game. The Mountaineers stranded runners in scoring position in both the second and third innings as well, and Pitt finally opened the scoring with a single run in the latter frame to take a 1-0 lead.

Three innings later, behind 3-0, West Virginia had its best chance to close the gap, but the Mountaineers left the bases loaded in another frustrating at-bat. Pitt then put the game away with four runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth. WVU finally scratched out one run in the top of the ninth to avoid a shutout, but that turn at bat was also symbolic of the day. The Mountaineers loaded the bases with one out, but could only push one run across, via a Pitt error, before grounding into a game-ending double play.

WVU starter Jarryd Summers allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings in taking the loss, but relief pitching was also wanting. Justin Ellis yielded nine hits and five earned runs against just 17 batters, allowing the Panthers to turn a competitive game into a laugher.

WVU faces the Panthers again in a single game on Friday at 3:00 p.m. The Mountaineers (35-15, 16-9) can now finish no better than third in the Big East. Pitt (27-18, 12-12) moved into a three-way tie for sixth with UConn and Seton Hall. All three schools are fighting for the final three positions in the tournament.

NOTE

Gyorko has been named a semifinalist for the 2009 Brooks Wallace Award, as announced by the College Baseball Foundation. The sophomore shortstop is the only Big East baseball player named to the list.

The award, given to the nation's best shortstop, is narrowed down to 15 players from nine different conferences. Gyorko is batting .406 with eight home runs and 50 RBIs, and is among the country's leaders with 27 doubles.

The sophomore leads the Mountaineers with 82 hits heading into their final series of the season against Pitt. He also is the team leader with 135 total bases, is slugging .668 and shows an on-base percentage of .475.

The lone Big East representative has made a smooth transition to shortstop in his second season, committing just two errors in his last 31 games while manning the infield.

The Brooks Wallace Award officially will be presented on July 2 in Lubbock, Texas, as part of the College Baseball Awards Show, which will recognize the top players in college baseball as part of the CBF's annual celebration, which also includes the National College Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.


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