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Pitt baseball swept in Miami

Alex Kowalczyk joins T.J. Zeuch and Charles LeBlanc as Pitt's third player selected in the 2016 MLB Draft. Jordan Mondell | Staff Photographer

Alex Kowalczyk joins T.J. Zeuch and Charles LeBlanc as Pitt's third player selected in the 2016 MLB Draft. Jordan Mondell | Staff Photographer

Alex Kowalczyk joins T.J. Zeuch and Charles LeBlanc as Pitt's third player selected in the 2016 MLB Draft. Jordan Mondell | Staff Photographer

By Steve Rotstein / Sports Editor

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The Pitt baseball team had three chances to shock the No. 4 Miami Hurricanes at Alex Rodriguez Park over the weekend, but came away empty-handed.

Although the Panthers (25-23 overall, 10-16 ACC) put up a fight on the road against the ACC Coastal Division-leading Hurricanes (40-9 overall, 19-6 ACC), Miami took game one, 7-6, game two, 4-3 in 11 innings, and game three, 8-4, to sweep the series.

Pitt’s cleanup hitter Alex Kowalczyk got the Panthers on the board first in game one on Friday night.

The senior led off the top of the second inning with a solo home run, his ninth of the season, but Pitt’s lead was short-lived. Miami struck back with three runs in the bottom of the second off Panthers’ ace T.J. Zeuch.

Senior Aaron Schnurbusch singled and scored to get Pitt back within a run in the top of the third, then two more RBI singles from sophomore Charles LeBlanc and junior Nick Yarnall gave the Panthers a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth.

The Hurricanes responded in the bottom of the sixth, tying the game on junior Edgar Michelangeli’s RBI double. Reliever Josh Mitchell entered the game with two outs and stranded runners on second and third to end the inning.

Miami took the lead in the bottom of the eighth on a two-out, three-run homer by sophomore Carl Chester, allowing closer Bryan Garcia to come out of the bullpen in the top of the ninth with a three-run cushion.

Kowalczyk gave the Panthers life, starting the inning with a single up the middle.

With one out, Pitt strung together three more singles to bring home a pair of runs. But Garcia struck out senior Matt Johnson and got junior Jacob Wright to line out to cut the Panthers’ comeback attempt short, saving the 7-6 win for the Hurricanes in game one.

In game two on Saturday night, Miami took an early 1-0 lead. But again, Pitt gave the Hurricanes all they could handle.

A sacrifice fly by Kowalczyk and an RBI single from Yarnall gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead in the third, then junior pitcher Josh Falk got a little help from his defense.

With two men on and two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Falk committed a costly throwing error. But junior first baseman Caleb Parry nailed Miami senior Brandon Lopez at the plate to protect Pitt’s lead and end the inning.

The Hurricanes loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth inning with a pair of bunt singles and an infield single before bringing home two runs on a fielder’s choice and throwing error to take a 3-2 lead.

Miami loaded the bases again with two more singles, prompting Pitt head coach Joe Jordano to replace Falk with Yaya Chentouf out of the bullpen.

The first-year pitcher/outfielder rewarded his coach by inducing an inning-ending double play, but the Hurricanes returned the favor in the top of the eighth.

With the bases full and one out, the Panthers had a chance to tie the game without even needing to get a hit. Instead, Schnurbusch grounded into a double play and they came away with nothing.

For Miami, Garcia entered the game in the top of the ninth looking for back-to-back saves, but Pitt wasn’t ready to give in yet.

Wright doubled to right-center with one out, then scored on sophomore Frank Maldonado’s RBI single to tie the game, 3-3. A pair of walks loaded the bases but senior Ron Sherman struck out looking to end the inning as the Panthers again left three runners on base.

The game went to extra innings, where junior Jacob Heyward, younger brother of Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, spoiled Chentouf’s extraordinary relief effort.

Chentouf pitched five-plus innings of no-hit ball out of the bullpen for Pitt before Heyward blasted a walk-off home run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning, delivering the 4-3 victory to the Hurricanes.

In game three on Sunday afternoon, Jordano took matters into his own hands to help his team get on the board.

In the top of the second inning, Jordano came out to argue with the umpires after Yarnall was picked off first base.

Pitt’s skipper believed Miami starter Danny Garcia had crossed the rubber with his foot when lifting his leg to throw to first, and that a balk should have been called. But instead of trying to get the call overturned, he may have been trying to buy a call later in the game.

That’s exactly what happened –– in the very same inning.

Garcia used a virtually identical pickoff move with Schnurbusch on first base, but this time was called for a balk, allowing Schnurbusch to advance to second. Junior Manny Pazos then brought him home with a single to right to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

Pitt added another run with three straight singles in the top of the third, then the Hurricanes scored a pair in the bottom half to tie the game.

The Panthers regained the lead on Kowalcyzk’s RBI double in the top of the fifth but Miami took control with an offensive explosion in the next two innings.

The Hurricanes scored three in the fifth and two in the sixth to take an 8-4 lead, which held up as the final score in game three.

Pitt comes home to face the West Virginia Mountaineers at Charles L. Cost Field on Tuesday, May 17 at 6 p.m. The Panthers defeated the Mountaineers, 4-1, in Granville, West Virginia, on April 12.

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Pitt baseball swept in Miami