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Pitt baseball splits series with Maryland Eastern Shore

Starter Sam Mersing pitched seven strong innings on Wednesday.

Starter Sam Mersing pitched seven strong innings on Wednesday.

Starter Sam Mersing pitched seven strong innings on Wednesday.

By Steve Rotstein / Sports Editor

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The Pitt baseball team let what should have been an easy home sweep slip away on Wednesday afternoon and had to settle for a series split against Maryland Eastern Shore.

The Panthers (22-18 overall, 8-12 ACC) took game one of the series, 9-1, on Tuesday night, but the Hawks (15-30 overall) came back and won 9-6 on Wednesday afternoon with a huge late-inning rally.

Despite making just his fourth start of the season under the lights on Tuesday night, first-year right-hander Collin Liberatore was lights-out in game one.

Following three scoreless innings by Liberatore (2-1) to start the game, the Panthers struck first in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly by junior Nick Yarnall. After the young righty put up another zero in the top of the fourth, Pitt blew the game open in the bottom half.

Senior Aaron Schnurbusch made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly of his own after singles by senior Ron Sherman and sophomore Frank Maldonado. Maldonado came home on a wild pitch, then junior Jacob Wright and sophomore Charles LeBlanc added RBI singles before the inning was over.

Liberatore gave up his first run in the top of the sixth, but stranded a pair of runners to keep the Panthers in control. He ended his night with one run allowed on four hits and one walk with six strikeouts in six solid innings of work.

Pitt added another four-run inning in the bottom of the eighth to put the game out of reach, and junior Jextin Pugh relieved Liberatore out of the bullpen and fired three shutout innings to earn his first save of the season in the 9-1 win.

The Panthers threatened to blow game two open in the first inning with cleanup hitter Alex Kowalczyk stepping to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out.

The senior delivered an RBI single to put Pitt on the board first and keep the bases full. Another run came home on a double play, but that was all the Panthers could manage as they took an early 2-0 lead.

Junior Sam Mersing tossed a couple scoreless innings to start the game for Pitt, but Maryland Eastern Shore cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the third.

Maldonado got a run back the hard way for the Panthers in the bottom of the fourth, getting hit by a pitch then scoring on a wild pitch. Wright added a sacrifice fly to give Pitt a 4-1 lead.

First-year pitcher/outfielder Yaya Chentouf knocked in a run with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, then put his wheels on display.

Chentouf stole second base, advanced to third on a groundout, then stole home to extend the lead to 6-1.

Mersing let in his second run of the game in the top of the seventh, then senior Connor Breslin came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs representing the tying run for the Hawks.

Mersing got Breslin to fly out to end the inning, finishing with two runs allowed on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts in seven innings pitched. He appeared to be on his way to his sixth win, but Maryland Eastern Shore had other plans.

Sophomore Dan Furman came out of the bullpen to start the eighth inning, and the Hawks chased him out of the game with a pair of singles, an RBI double and a walk to load the bases.

Sophomore reliever Josh Mitchell replaced Furman, but after walking in a run, Panthers head coach Joe Jordano immediately turned to fellow sophomore Isaac Mattson to try to protect the two-run lead.

Mattson inherited the bases loaded, nobody out situation and immediately gave up a bases-clearing double to sophomore Isaiah Chambers, giving Maryland Eastern Shore its first lead at 7-6.

Senior Mike Escanilla followed with an RBI triple, then Breslin added an RBI double to complete the seven-run inning. Pitt was unable to respond in the final two innings and the Hawks won game two, 9-6, to salvage a series split.

The Panthers next travel to South Bend, Indiana for a three-game conference series against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish beginning on Friday, May 6 at 7:05 p.m.

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Pitt baseball splits series with Maryland Eastern Shore