Panthers weather the weekend against Georgia Tech

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Panthers weather the weekend against Georgia Tech

Josh Falk helped lead Pitt to a series victory at Notre Dame.  Matt Hawley | Staff Photographer

Josh Falk helped lead Pitt to a series victory at Notre Dame. Matt Hawley | Staff Photographer

Josh Falk helped lead Pitt to a series victory at Notre Dame. Matt Hawley | Staff Photographer

Josh Falk helped lead Pitt to a series victory at Notre Dame. Matt Hawley | Staff Photographer

By Steve Rotstein / Staff Writer

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Mother nature’s impromptu winter spell interrupted the Pitt baseball team’s series against Georgia Tech, but the Panthers didn’t let the cold keep them from a split.

“I focus on things, and my team focuses on things that we control,” Pitt head coach Joe Jordano said after Georgia Tech’s first victory. “We don’t control the weather, so we needed to come out here and play this game.”

After falling to the Yellow Jackets (23-8, 7-7 ACC) 6-3 in game one Friday, the Panthers (14-13, 6-8 ACC) did fight back against their opponents and the inclement weather on Sunday, marking a 13-6 victory in the second game.

Friday’s play was the fifth time Pitt has dropped the opening game in as many ACC series. Georgia Tech jumped out to an early lead in game one Friday night, stringing together four runs on four hits in the top of the second inning.

Senior starting pitcher Aaron Sandefur settled in after Georgia Tech’s offensive burst, but Pitt’s batters couldn’t back him up with any offense against Yellow Jackets starter Brandon Gold.

Georgia Tech added another run in the top of the fifth to take a 5-0 lead, and capped off Sandefur’s time on the mound.

Josh Falk replaced him out of the bullpen, pitching just over three innings of two-hit ball. Falk’s lone mistake was a solo home run, which he gave up to Matt Gonzalez to lead off the seventh inning and extend Georgia Tech’s lead to 6-0.

The Panthers finally ended their scoring drought in the bottom of the seventh when junior Caleb Parry doubled and senior Ron Sherman followed with his sixth home run of the season to cut the deficit to 6-2.

Pitt closed the gap in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI double by first-year second baseman David Yanni.

Down 6-3 with runners on the corners and two outs, first-year pitcher and outfielder Yaya Chentouf came to the plate, representing the tying run. The Yellow Jackets brought in closer Matthew Gorst, and he struck Chentouf out to end the threat.

Chentouf came in as pitcher to bring in a 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth, but Gorst shut the Panthers down in the bottom of the ninth to save the 6-3 win for Georgia Tech.

Freezing temperatures and snow showers forced a rare mid-season cancellation Saturday, meaning the Panthers would need to win on Sunday to salvage a split in the home series.

Jordano sent junior T.J. Zeuch to the mound to pull off the split. Unfazed by the first-pitch temperature of 22 degrees, Zeuch took the rubber and coolly pitched a 1-2-3 first inning.

The Panthers played small ball to take an early lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Junior Jacob Wright led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Charles LeBlanc. Wright advanced to third on a passed ball, then scored on another sacrifice bunt by junior Nick Yarnall to give Pitt a 1-0 lead.

Georgia Tech starting pitcher Zac Ryan plunked Sherman in the back to start the bottom of the second. Shortstop Connor Justus bobbled a hard-hit grounder by sophomore Frank Maldonado, who beat the ensuing throw to put runners on first and second with nobody out.

Parry took advantage of the Yellow Jackets’ sloppy play, smacking a two-run double into the left-center field gap. Two batters later, LeBlanc delivered a two-out, two-run single up the middle to give Pitt a 5-0 lead.

Georgia Tech finally got to Zeuch in the top of the fourth, loading the bases with a single and a pair of walks before Tristin English lined an 0-2 fastball into the gap in left-center for a bases-clearing double.

The towering right-hander conceded that the pitch probably caught too much of the plate.

“It was also a pitch that I probably shouldn’t have thrown,” Zeuch said. “I had gotten ahead of him 0-2 with two straight fastballs, so he was kind of sitting on that … I think I should have thrown some off-speed to try to slow his eyesight down, then [came] back with a fastball.”

The Yellow Jackets brought home one more run to make it 5-4, but a tremendous diving stop by LeBlanc saved a run and preserved the one-run lead for the Panthers, who struck back in a big way in the bottom half.

Senior Matt Johnson started the inning with a walk, then Wright brought him home with a double off the wall. LeBlanc followed with an RBI single, then Yarnall launched his seventh home run of the season over the wall in right.

Pitt didn’t bow out — Parry extended the lead to 11-4 with a two-run single before a double play finally ended the seven-run inning.

“I always say, ‘You’ve got to punch back,’” Jordano said about his team’s response to Georgia Tech’s big inning. “If you take a punch, you’ve got to punch back.”

Falk replaced Zeuch in the top of the sixth and gave up a run, but stranded a man on third and two more in the seventh to limit the damage.

Parry led off the bottom of the seventh with a shot off the top of the 16-foot wall in left, but had to settle for a long single.

Parry said he thought the ball was going over the fence, but added, “In conditions like this, though, you never know. It felt good off the bat.”

Parry still finished 3-for-4 on the day with four RBIs, proving the California kid doesn’t need warm weather and sunshine to drive the ball all over the park.

The Panthers added two more runs in the inning to extend the lead to 13-6, and Chentouf pitched another 1-2-3 ninth to finish off the win and earn a series split for Pitt.

The Panthers travel to Granville, West Virginia, next to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 12.

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