Panthers sweep weekday doubleheader against St. Francis


Erin Hershman made First Team All-ACC for Pitt softball. John Hamilton | Staff Photographer

By Joe Rokicki / Staff Writer

After a tough weekend loss against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in which they scored just one run, the Pitt softball team made its bats great again on Wednesday.

The Panthers (26-14) swept Saint Francis University (22-17) in a doubleheader at the Charles L. Cost Center, winning the contests 6-1 and 7-5.

The Panthers took the first game with some help from the long ball, as balls flew over the fence frequently throughout both games.

“Well we have hit a lot of home runs on the year, I think we’re just trying to maintain our approach up there,” Pitt head coach Holly Aprile said. “So, it wasn’t anything different than what we’ve been doing, we enjoy playing in this park and we hit a lot of home runs with the short porch.”

The Panther bats fired early with a four-run first inning, thanks to a Giorgiana Zeremenko three-run home run to left field, which scored pitcher Jenna Modic and third baseman Shelby Pickett. Erin Hershman responded with a solo home run, as the Panthers went back-to-back to jump to an early 4-0 lead.

Pickett singled to center with one out in the second inning to give the Panthers their first baserunner of the inning. McKayla Taylor belted a two-run home run to left center to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead.

Jenna Modic (5-5) recorded two strikeouts, three walks and an earned run through 17 batters and 3.1 innings of work. Modic surrendered a home run in the fourth inning to Saint Francis shortstop Jordan Seneca. Kayla Harris pitched 3.2 scoreless innings and struck out three batters in relief to help close the door.

The second game started rough for the Panthers. Fastball pitcher Sarah Dawson ran into trouble early in the first inning after surrendering a leadoff single to Saint Francis centerfielder Sierra McKee. Three batters later, Madison Cabell belted a pitch over the left field wall for a home run and a 2-0 Saint Francis lead.

“Sarah’s been battling, she hasn’t pitched in a few weeks,” Aprile said. “I thought she made some good pitches where she jammed some hitters. And there were some pitches left up in the zone and a couple of those got hit out, and that’s just something she’s going to keep adjusting and work on.”

Dawson’s fastball-screwball combination was a little loose in the third inning as well. Left fielder Hayley Norton recorded a one-out double to left field. Two batters later, Cabell launched her second home run of the game over right centerfield to put the Red Flash up 4-0.

Pitt pulled Dawson after two-and-two-thirds innings of work, and Aprile turned to Harris once again.

“I knew I had to get in there and take control and back [Dawson] up and help her out. I knew we were going to win from the start,” Harris said.

Harris pitched 4.1 innings in relief, surrendered one run on six hits and recorded one strikeout in her 14th win of the season.

Harris felt her breaking pitches were effective on the evening.

“My drop ball [was working today]. I threw a lot of those today and my changeup got a couple girls, and the screwball definitely — mainly just to jam them, which I thought happened a lot today.”

While Harris kept the Red Flash batters at bay, the Panthers responded with some instant offense of their own. Modic and Zeremenko planted back-to-back shots to center field and left field, respectively, to start the home half of the fourth inning, making the score 5-2 Red Flash.

The Panther comeback was only beginning, as Zeremenko launched her second home run of the game in the fifth inning off an Alexis Bower fastball right over the heart of the plate.  Zeremenko’s moon shot to left marked her 15th of the year, tying a single-season school record.

“It feels good, but I mean, I’m not too worried about it. I’m just trying to have good at-bats and [home runs] come with it,” Zeremenko said.

Aprile lauded Zeremenko’s strength.

“She can really drive the ball,” Aprile added. “That one was in orbit.”

The Panthers trailed 5-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Right fielder Olivia Gray started the inning with a lead-off single between short and third. But Saint Francis threw Gray out, advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt attempt from catcher Kathryn Duran. Pickett beat out a single to second, which brought up second basemen Maggie Sevilla with two outs.

Sevilla belted a Bower fastball over the left field wall for a three-run home run, capping the Panther comeback 7-5.

Through two games, the Panthers tallied 13 runs off six home runs. Modic and Zeremenko combined for five of the six bombs. Aprile wants her team to maintain its offensive momentum heading into a three-game series with ACC foe Georgia Tech (16-25, 3-8 ACC) this weekend.

“I think it’s just us feeling good about what we did. A couple people made some good adjustments and got themselves in the right frame of mind. Softball is a tough game, there’s a lot of ups and downs and failures to deal with,” Aprile said.

The Panthers continue their ACC slate at home, taking on Georgia Tech Saturday and Sunday.

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