Markel's Record Powers WVU

West Virginia senior Austin Markel set a Big East tournament record with six RBIs to help power the Mountaineers past Pitt on Thursday afternoon.

Markel clouted two triples and an home run as WVU crushed the Panthers 20-8, knocking Pitt out of the tournament. The two three-baggers gave him 17 for his career, which is a school record. WVU's 20 runs also set a tournament standard, breaking Villanova's mark of 18, set in 1987.

WVU broke out of a scoring slump it had fallen into over the last week, as it tallied runs in every inning but the second. The game was shortened to seven innings due to the mercy rule.

WVU opened the scoring with a pair of runs in the first, as Justin Parks and Jedd Gyorko scored on singles by Vince Belnome and Dan DiBartolomeo, respectively. The Mountaineers missed a chance to add to their lead when Belnome was cut down at the plate, but the early production was a signe of things to come.

Pitt answered with three runs in the bottom of the first and another in the second to take a 4-2 lead, but Markel started a WVU rally in the third with his first triple of the day. Gyorko doubled him home, and both he and DiBartolomeo came home on an error to put the Mountaineers ahead 5-4. One inning later, Belnome singled home Markel, and DiBartolomeo hit a sacrifice fly to plate Gyorko to push the lead to 7-4.

Pitt came right back with four runs to take the lead at 8-7, and it seemed as if a back and forth contest was in the offing, but at this point West Virginia's bats really began to boom. WVU retook the lead in the fifth on Gyorko's clutch two-out, two RBI single, and then took control in the sixth with a six run outburst.

That inning started with two singles, a walk and an error to score one run and load the bases. Parks was then hit by a pitch to bring home another run, and Markel then clouted his second triple of the day to clear the bags. Gyorko's sacrifice fly plated Markel for the final run of the inning, leaving WVU with a 15-8 lead.

Pitt still had time to respond, but another 1-2-3 inning by starter Billy Gross, who shut out the Panthers over the final three innings, put the Mountaineers in position to close things out. They did just that with five more runs in the top of the seventh, and it was again Markel who took the highlight position. His three-run homer scored Parks and catcher Tobias Streich and gave WVU the ten-run advantage it needed to end the game early, and when Gross was able to hold the Panthers to a meaningless single in the bottom of the seventh, the Mountaineers had the revenge win they were looking for.

Markel wasn't the only hitting star for West Virginia on the day. Gyorko was a perfect 4-4 with four RBI, while Belnome and DiBartolomeo had three hits each. WVU's run producing group -- spots two through five in the batting order -- combined for 14 hits, ten runs and 15 RBIs. The Mountaineers totaled 17 hits in all in their record setting day at the plate.

West Virginia will now play the loser of the USF-Connecticut game. Gametime has yet to be determined, due to anticipated bad weather conditions in Clearwater, the site of this year's tournament.

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