With the victory Pitt (33-10) repaid WVU for the Mountaineers 8-7 victory in Pittsburgh earlier in the season and prevented WVU from earning their 100th win in the rivalry.
"It was incredible, especially for my last time playing here, " said senior Brady Wilson of the Mountaineer crowd. "I'm really proud of the way my teammates battled back. We were one hit away from tying the game. We just couldn't get it done."
In a ceremony held on the field after the second inning, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) bill that was passed during a special session of the West Virginia Legislature into law. That bill includes over $100 million of investment into the region, including money for a new baseball stadium for the Mountaineers.
Around the governor's appearance, WVU starter Brock Dykxhoorn (2-1) started off strong, rolling through the first 10 Pitt batters. He allowed only one baserunner as a result of a Taylor Munden throwing error in shutting out the Panthers through the first third of the game. The fourth inning was a different matter, as Pitt cleanup hitter Jacob Hess led off the inning with a single. One out later Boo Vasquez singled and then Dykxhoorn issued a free pass to Steve Shelinsky, loading the bases. That was just the strat of the drama, however.
After ball four to Shelinsky, WVU catcher Alan Filauro fired to third to catch Vasquez napping. The only problem was third base umpire Robert Reitz didn't see the play, as he had started to move into position for the next batter. The safe call immediately brought coach Randy Mazey out of the dugout for a lengthy discussion. Mazey, not known for excessive umpire arguing, made his point, with no effect.
"I hate spending time on the field talking to umpires. I obviously saw something different than he did.", said Mazey.
Elvin Soto then hit a looping liner to center to score a run. Two batters later, with Pitt leading 2-0, .190 batting Bennette Hill ripped the first pitch he saw over the wall in right for a wind-aided grand slam to give Pitt the 6-0 lead.
West Virginia came right back in the bottom of the fourth. Ryan McBroom and Matt Frazer led off the inning with consecutive singles. Billy Fleming continued his torrid hitting with an RBI single to score McBroom, with Frazer alertly hustling to third on the play. Filauro then grounded into a double play, but Frazer scored to make it 6-2 after four.
The Mountaineers pulled closer in the fifth. After reliever Ryan Tezak retired Pitt in order in the top of the inning, Bobby Boyd reached after being hit with a pitch. One out later Brady Wilson ripped a single up the middle to put runners on the corners with one out. Ryan Tuntland then lifted a fly ball deep to left to drive in Boyd and cut the lead to 6-3.
Pitt tacked on what proved to be the winning run in the top of the seventh. Stephen Vranka doubled with one out and moved to third on a groundout. Winning pitcher Casey Roach then knocked in the Panthers' final tally of the night.
Things did not look good for WVU as it went down in order for the first time in the seventh inning. The capacity crowd started to thin out as the Mountaineers took the field in the eighth, but those fans missed yet another rally. McBroom led off the inning with a sharp ground ball to first baseman Eric Hess, who mishandled the ball. With McBroom moving, Matt Frazer chopped back to the pitcher for the first out. Billy Fleming then lifted a bloop double down the right field line to score McBroom and cut the Pitt lead back to 7-4.
Then came the play that really hurt the Mountaineer cause. Fleming committed a baserunning error on a Filauro grounder to short. Fleming was thrown out at third by three steps, leaving WVU had two outs with Filauro on first.
"It was horrible base running by me. It was just the worst mistake you can make," said Fleming. "You're taught in Little League that if the ball is to your right you don't go and I went. It cost us, honestly."
Jacob Rice then entered the game to bat for Chris Rasky and belted a single up the middle that would have scored Fleming, but the Mountaineers were left with Filauro at second and Rice at first with two outs. Bobby Boyd, who has been batting ninth in the order during WVU's latest hot streak, then belted a triple to right field, scoring Filauro and Rice, cutting the Pitt lead to 7-6.
It was then that Mazey made a move that changed WVU's batting order in the ninth. Instead of sticking with Corey Holmes, who had fanned the only batter he faced in the eighth inning, Mazey inserted Taylor Munden to pitch, putting Michael Constantini at shortstop and removing DH Matt Frazer from the lineup. Munden retired all three batters he faced, but with Frazer out WVU didn't have the big stick potential at the plate in its last at-bat.
Brady Wilson singled to open up the ninth inning for West Virginia, and the remaining fans really started to shake the stands. With Wilson moving on the pitch, Ryan Tuntland hit a slow chopper over the mound and Panther shortstop Evan Oswald made a nice grab and throw to retire Tuntland for the first out. McBroom then hit a sharp comebacker to the mound. Pitt chose not to try to catch Wilson in no man's land off second and got the sure out at first, leaving Michael Constantini to bat with two outs. Constantini grounded to second to send WVU home with a loss for the first time in more than a week.
Wilson, Rice, Fleming and Boyd all had two hits in the Mountaineers' 12-hit attack. Boyd and Fleming drove in two runs each.
West Virginia returns to action at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston this Friday against Big 12 leader Oklahoma for a three game series.
WVU ace Harrison Musgrave will put his 26 game scoreless innings streak on the line against the league's most talented team.