In the second game of back-to-back mid-week contests, the Pitt baseball team couldn’t keep up with the Kent State Golden Flashes Wednesday night.
The Golden Flashes (21-12) knocked the Panthers’ pitchers around from the start, amassing 15 hits in a 12-8 victory. Kent State also took a 7-6 win against Pitt (16-18) on March 21.
“To their credit, they swung the bat pretty good tonight,” Pitt senior shortstop P.J. DeMeo said. “I just think it was a tough team loss to handle. I thought we played well. We battled. We hung in there and didn’t quit on each other.”
The team couldn’t get any consistent production out of its pitching staff, using seven pitchers in the game while none lasted more than 2 1/3 innings. Graduate transfer right hander Adam Cornwell made his first start in a Panthers uniform, entering the game with a 6.00 ERA in three relief appearances.
Cornwell’s first outing got off to a rough start as he hit the first batter he faced. He then gave up a run-scoring single to designated hitter Luke Burch after a wild pitch advanced the runner to second. Two more runs scored after a pair of singles and another wild pitch, and sophomore righty Tyler Garbee replaced him to record the final run in the top of the first.
The Golden Flashes added another run in the top of the second when first-year shortstop John Matthews smacked a leadoff double off the wall and scored on an RBI groundout by Burch.
It didn’t take long for Pitt to respond, as the Panthers came back with four runs in the bottom of the second. First-year second baseman Alex Amos got the Panthers on the board with a two-run single after DeMeo doubled off the top of the wall in left-center field.
“Honestly, I thought I hit that one out,” DeMeo said. “I thought I got that one really good. But take them as they come, right?”
Redshirt senior outfielder Jacob Wright drew a walk, then redshirt junior first baseman Caleb Parry got hit by a pitch to load the bases. Two more walks by outfielders Yaya Chentouf and Frank Maldonado brought a pair of runs home to tie the game at four.
Pitt took its first lead in the bottom of the third when Kent State catcher Pete Schuler overthrew second base on first-year outfielder Nico Popa’s stolen base, allowing sophomore catcher Alex Griffith to score.
The Panthers’ lead was short-lived as the Golden Flashes answered with five runs in the top of the fourth to go back on top, 9-5. DeMeo then belted a solo homer over the left field wall in the fifth to cut into Pitt’s deficit, but Kent State came right back with three more runs in the sixth.
The home plate umpire tossed Pitt head coach Joe Jordano for arguing in the top of the sixth after the umpire mistakenly awarded a leadoff walk to Burch after only three balls. Golden Flashes first baseman Dylan Rosa immediately followed with a two-run home run, and an RBI single by right fielder Nick Kanavas gave Kent State a six-run lead.
A two-run home run by Wright in the bottom of the eighth trimmed the gap to four, but it wasn’t enough for the Panthers as the Golden Flashes held on for the 12-8 win.
Pitt will stay at home to welcome the No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels to Charles L. Cost Field for a three-game series this weekend, beginning Friday at 6 p.m.
Wright said the Panthers have a tendency to elevate their game against the Tar Heels, and he expects this weekend to be no different.
“We’ve played some of the best games in my Pitt career against North Carolina,” Wright said. “I think the guys that are here that remember playing them know that we do step up when they get on the field with us.”