It was heart wrenching watching the fateful 8th inning of WVU’s 6-1 Big East Conference Tournament loss to Connecticut Tuesday night. WVU made several tremendous defensive plays to help preserve a 1-0 lead into the 8th. Then one of the best closers in college baseball had one of those nights. With heavy rain falling, WVU’s Chris Enourato had a hard time finding a grip for his slider and he was hit hard by the Huskies who got six consecutive hits to take control of the game. An error aided in the six run inning as the Mountaineers slid into the losers bracket.
A big suprise in game was the performance of Connecticut starter Elliot Glynn. Glynn had the Mountaineer hitters off balance all night and he helped himself by not giving up a walk in the game. Connecticut won it’s first round game by using just two pitchers neither of them being #1 starter and second team All-Big East selection John Folino or their closer.
Credit WVU starter Jarryd Summers with bouncing back following a pair of sub-par outings. That was encouraging as he struck out seven and allowed just four hits.
The only bit of good news heading into day two is that the Mountaineers have their staff leader in wins–righthander Billy Gross–ready to pitch game two. Gross, a third team All-Big East pick, is 8-4. He will get the baseball whenever WVU plays it’s second game in the tournament. Right now, that game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. start time Wednesday but the forecast is not promising. The tournament has already been set back as the South Florida/Pitt game was pushed back until 10 a.m. Wednesday. Tournament officals are then hoping to get the four games already scheduled for Wednesday in. The only problem: The weather forecast is dismal as this low pressure rain system is parked covering the entire state of Florida.
Top seed defending tournament champ Louisville looked unbeatable Tuesday as the Cardinals rolled to a 12-2 mercy rule victory over Cincinnati. The Cardinals pounded the ball with minimal contributions from conference player of the year Chris Dominguez. First baseman Andrew Clark and catcher Jeff Arnold each had three hits. Arnold drove in four runs and outfielder Ryan Wright drove in three. Derek Self earned the win as the Cardinals saved Big East pitcher of the year Justin Marks for later in the tournament. Louisville will face Notre Dame in round two Wednesday.
Game one Tuesday between Notre Dame and St. John’s took nearly three and a half hours play setting the tournament schedule back. Game two between top seed Louisville and Cincinnati got started at 2:25 p.m. That was 1:25 behind schedule. The WVU/Connecticut game, scheduled for a 5 p.m. first pitch, most likely will not start before 6:00.
Notre Dame won the first game over St. John’s 14-5 as the Irish snapped a four game conference tournament losing streak. St. John’s had it’s Big East Conference tournament losing streak extended to five games. These two teams both went two-and-out last year. On Tuesday, Notre Dame banged out 17 hits All-Conference performers A. J. Pollock and Jeremy Barnes combined for seven hits and six RBI. Pollock doubled twice and Barnes hit a homerun. The Irish are playing much better of late as they won their final two series of the regular season taking 2-3 from St. John’s and South Florida. Notre Dame was also the only team to win a series from Louisville during the final two months of the regular season.
A couple of thoughts on the West Virginia/U-Conn game:
The Mountaineers lost two of three on the road at Pitt last weekend, but they still continue to swing the bats well as they scored 29 runs in those three games.
The pitching match up features a couple of All-Big East Conference picks. Jarryd Summers was a first team selection after going 7-3 with a 3.30 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 87 innings. Summers, however, is winless in his last two starts. He was pulled out of his start at Pitt Thursday early because of a pitch count as the Mountaineers anticipated him starting the tournament opener. John Folino of U-Conn was a second team All-Big East pick as he is 6-3 with a 6.92 ERA.
Getting an early lead in this one will be key because both teams have excellent closers. Chris Enourato was a third team All-Big East pick with 6 wins and 6 saves. David Erickson of Connecticutt is 0-2 on the year, but his total of ten saves leads the Big East.
One advantage the Mountaineers should have is defensively. WVU stabalized it’s infield defense when it inserted Colin Durburow at second. The Mountaineers have cut down on the errors and they tied for the league lead by turning 52 double plays. U-Conn, meanwhile, led the league with 92 errors.
The nine WVU players selected as All-Big East representatives show the respect the coaches in the league have for one of the elite offensive teams in the country. The nine selections represent the most ever for a West Virginia team. The four first team picks ties the school record.
The Mountaineers had senior outfielder Justin Parks, sophomore shortstop Jedd Gyorko, sophomore catcher Tobias Streich and sophomore pitcher Jarryd Summers chosen as first team selections. WVU also had four first team picks in 2006 when Casey Bowling, David Carpenter, Justin Jenkins and Stan Posluszny made the first team.
WVU also had junior second baseman/designated hitter Vince Belnome selected for the second team. Senior outfielder Austin Markel, Junior closer Chris Enourato, junior starting pitcher Billy Gross and sophomore third baseman Dan DiBartolomeo made the third team.
Previously, the most players the Mountaineers had picked for the All-Big East teams was six back in 2003.
Last year, the Mountaineers had five players selected. The only first team member was senior shortstop Tyler Kuhn who had set career and single season hits records for the Mountaineers. Gyorko and Parks where tabbed as second team picks in 2008. Belnome and Mountaineer first baseman Joe Agreste earned third team honors last season.
Perhaps what is most interesting about WVU’s nine selections is that three of them are pitchers. The Mountaineers are reguarded as the top offensive team in the conference heading into the post season tournament. The Mountaineers also have two of the top three winners in the conference as the eight wins recorded by Gross and the seven earned by Summers are right behind conference leader Justin Marks who has nine. Enourato has six wins and six saves. All three pitchers are very much deserving of the recognition.
As for the big awards, Louisville third baseman Chris Dominguez earned the Big East player of the year. Dominguez shared the award with Josh Harrison of Cincinnati last season. Dominguez became just the second play in conference history to repeat as player of the year. Steve Stanley of Notre Dame won the award in 2001 and 2002. Dominguez was drafted in the 5th round by Colorado following the 2008 season, but he didn’t sign. He returned to Louisville this year and set career highs in just about every offensive catagory including average (.365), slugging (.721), homeruns (21), RBI (75), total bases (158), and stolen bases (17).
Justin Marks of Louisville was named the pitcher of the year after leading the conference with nine victories. Marks is also tops in the conference with 106 strikeouts.
With Dominguez and Marks leading the way, Louisville is enjoying it’s third consecutive 40 win season.