The College Baseball Blog made the trip down to Storrs Connecticut to take in the West Virginia and UConn game on March 22nd. The Mountaineers entered the game with an overall record of 14-5 (2-0 Big East) while UConn had a 7-9 overall record (0-2 Big East). West Virginia sent redshirt junior RHP Billy Gross to the mound while UConn sent redshirt sophomore LHP Greg Nappo to the mound.
The two reasons why this game was picked for this day was to see the stellar shortstop battle between Jedd Gyorko of West Virginia and Michael Olt of UConn. Both players are considered the best shortstops in the Big East conference this season and they both are only sophomores.
The game would start out slow with West Virginia and UConn playing three scoreless innings as both Nappo and Gross were keeping the offenses off the base paths. The scoring would start in the fourth inning when Vince Belnome laid down a bunt. It was fielded by UConn third baseman Nick Ahmed overthrew the first baseman letting Belnome reach base and advance to second on the overthrow. Tobias Streich followed with a long double to center field over George Springer’s head to give the Mountaineers a 1-0 lead after 3.5 innings.
UConn would respond with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning when Harold Brantley singled through
the hole to right field. Matt Burnett would follow with a single up the middle allowing Brantly to move over to third. Michael Olt would follow with a single through the hold on the left side of the infield tying up the score at 1 and putting runners on first and second. Peter Fatse would follow with a home run over the short right field fence and give the Huskies a 4-1 lead after four innings.
West Virginia would put together a two out rally in the top of the fifth inning as Justin Parks picked up a single up the middle. He would then steal second base and then score on Austin Markel’s single up the middle. Markel would then follow in Parks’ footsteps by stealing second base. Jedd Gyorko would then come up and hit a groundball up the middle which was stopped from going into the outfield by Pierre LePage putting runners on the corners. Vince Belnome would follow with a single to left center field to score another run. The Mountaineers would not be able to put another run across putting the score at 4-3 after 4.5 innings.
The score would stay 4-3 until the seventh inning when the Mountaineers would put together another rally. Austin Markel would start the inning off by reaching base when Nick Ahmed made his second error of the game by dropping an infield pop up. After a Jedd Gyorko strikeout, UConn manager Jim Penders would call for left-handed reliever Dennis Accomando to take over on the mound. He entered the game with an opposing batting average against of .091. The first pitch he threw to Vince Belnome would be between the first and second baseman allowing Markel to reach third base. Both runners would not stay there long as Tobias Streich would come through again with another two run double giving the Mountaineers a 5-4 lead.
West Virginia tacked on single runs in the eighth and the ninth to set up the final scoreline of 7-4 as West Virginia completed the weekend sweep against the Huskies.
The biggest story of the day for West Virginia was the starting pitching of Billy Gross who was outstanding all day besides that rough fourth inning. He finished the day with a complete game while giving up a total of eight hits and four runs while walking only one batter. He continued to pound the strikezone and made the Huskies hitters hit the ball to his fielders who only committed a single error on the day which was erased on a ground ball.
West Virginia’s record now goes to 15-5 overall while upping their conference record to 3-0 while UConn is now 7-10 overall while 0-3 in the Big East. West Virginia returns to action on Tuesday when they take on Kentucky in Charleston WV while UConn is back in action on Monday when they travel to Northeastern.
Special thanks to Kristen Altieri of UConn Media Relations for giving us a ton of information on the game and helping out with all information necessary.