Pitt topples West Virginia University, 4-1


Victor Wu

Wenhao Wu | Senior Staff Photographer

By Steve Rotstein / Staff Writer

Although fellow Pitt baseball starting pitchers T.J. Zeuch and Aaron Sandefur are grabbing all the headlines this year, Sam Mersing snagged the spotlight against West Virginia Tuesday night.

Mersing allowed just three hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over six scoreless innings to improve to 5-2 on the year. The junior guided Pitt (15-13, 6-8 ACC) to a 4-1 road victory over the rival Mountaineers (17-14, 4-4 Big 12) in Granville, West Virginia.

As in their game against Penn State last Tuesday, the Panthers struggled to put runs on the board. The feeling was mutual this time around, as Mersing matched his mound opponent zero for zero.

Pitt had plenty of chances to score early on, but couldn’t come up with a hit with runners in scoring position.

Junior Jacob Wright led off the game with a walk, then advanced to third on a single by sophomore Charles LeBlanc. West Virginia starting pitcher Michael Grove picked LeBlanc off first base then recorded back-to-back strikeouts to escape the first inning unscathed.

Freshman second baseman David Yanni started the second inning with a walk and sophomore Frank Maldonado followed with a single, but Grove conjured up a double play and a strikeout to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard.

Pitt loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the third on a hit-by-pitch and a pair of walks. Again, Grove came up with a strikeout to end the threat.

It was more of the same in the top of the fourth, as junior P.J. DeMeo tripled to right field on a two-out, full-count pitch — but again, Grove kept the Panthers off the scoreboard with an inning-ending strikeout.

Senior Alex Kowalczyk drove Grove out of the game with a single to lead off the sixth. Reliever Conner Dotson retired the next three batters to keep the game scoreless.

Pitt got its best chance yet in the top of the seventh when Dotson plunked junior Manny Pazos and Wright on consecutive pitches. An errant pickoff throw allowed the runners to advance, then Dotson loaded the bases by intentionally walking LeBlanc.

Junior Nick Yarnall walked on four pitches to bring home the first run of the game for the Panthers.

With the bases still full, Kowalczyk scorched a two-run single up the middle, just past Mountaineer shortstop Jimmy Galusky’s outstretched glove. Yanni’s sacrifice fly gave Pitt a 4-0 lead before the inning was over.

Sophomore reliever Isaac Mattson replaced Mersing to start the seventh. He picked up where the starter left off, putting up a pair of zeroes — though he may be nursing a nasty bruise as a result.

Mattson walked the leadoff batter, then Wright dropped a routine fly ball in right field. A flyout put runners on the corners with two outs for Braden Zarbnisky, who smoked a line drive right back up the middle.

But instead of bringing home West Virginia’s first run, the screaming liner ricocheted off Mattson’s leg and bounced directly to DeMeo. The third baseman picked it up and threw to first for an unconventional 1-5-3 putout to end the inning.

Things didn’t go as smoothly for DeMeo in the bottom of the ninth, as he misjudged a skyscraping pop-up that could have been the final out. Instead, the ball fell in the infield, and the Mountaineers had runners on the corners with two outs.

Mattson then walked the bases full, and Pitt head coach Joe Jordano turned to freshman reliever/outfielder Yaya Chentouf to get the final out.

Chentouf gave up an RBI single, breaking the shutout and bringing Darius Hill to the plate representing the winning run for West Virginia. But Chentouf got Hill to fly out to end the game and save the 4-1 win for the Panthers.

Pitt travels to Blacksburg, Virginia, this weekend to resume conference play against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Game one of the three-game series is Friday, April 15, at 5:30 p.m.

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