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Pitt’s offensive explosion snaps losing streak

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Pitt’s offensive explosion snaps losing streak

By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

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Pitt’s baseball game against the Youngstown State Penguins happened at the perfect time. The team’s last win came on March 25 against the Penguins, and it had not won since — until the teams played again on Tuesday.

The Panthers (12-19, 4-11 ACC) snapped their seven-game losing streak with a convincing 12-1 win over Youngstown State (7-18, 3-9 Horizon) at Charles L. Cost Field.

Sophomore Sam Mersing led the way for Pitt, pitching a career-high six innings and allowing one run on three hits, the first of which did not come until the fifth inning. He now holds a 3-1 season record with a 5.18 ERA.

“I trusted myself, and I called the pitches I wanted to call today,” Mersing said. “I was really able to mix fastball and offspeed throughout the whole game, and that’s what helped me get through.”

Redshirt sophomore left fielder Jacob Wright jumpstarted Pitt in the bottom of the first inning with a double to the left field corner.

Freshman shortstop Charles LeBlanc moved him over to third with a groundout to the pitcher, then senior designated hitter Boo Vazquez scored Wright with a groundout to second base to give the Panthers a quick 1-0 lead.Pitt head coach Joe Jordano said jumping out early was crucial, and the game itself was a must-win for a Pitt team that has struggled lately.

“It’s self-imposed [pressure on the team], but yeah, I mean, we had to win,” Jordano said. “We’ve really been struggling in all phases of the game, so to have a game like this where we just came out and swung the bats and pitched and played defense, we really needed that win.”

Wright continued his hot streak with a single up the middle in the third inning. Wright, who is batting .282 this season, now has a six-game hitting streak and has reached base in his last 21 games.

“I’ve just been trying to really simplify everything,” Wright said. “Earlier in the season, I was trying to do too much, I think. I just trusted myself.”

Wright advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt, then stole third base on the first pitch of the next at-bat.

“He has been swinging it well,” Jordano said. “He’s been aggressive on the bases. His speed in the outfield is a difference-maker as well.”

Vazquez earned his second RBI of the game and the 100th of his career with a single up the middle, reminiscent of Wright’s earlier in the inning, to score the left fielder.

Junior catcher Kowalczyk doubled the Panthers’ lead in emphatic fashion two batters later with a deep home run to dead center field, his second of the season, giving Pitt a 4-0 lead.

Pitt, which allowed several big offensive innings early to Notre Dame last weekend, created one of its own with the home run, plating three runs in the third inning.

The home run would end Youngstown State starter Jeremy Quinlan’s day. The sophomore lasted only three innings, allowing the Panther four runs and five hits.

In three of his last four starts, Mersing pitched at least three innings without allowing a hit.

“When you throw strikes and let your defense play, it makes it easier for yourself,” Mersing said.

Wright made sure that the trend would continue on Tuesday, as he made a leaping catch in left field with two outs to end the fourth inning and keep Mersing’s clean sheet intact.

“Honestly, I had a couple diving attempts in the past few games that didn’t end up as well for me, so it felt really good to actually land one,” Wright said.

As the rain began to pour down, Youngstown State put an end to Mersing’s no-hit bid in the top of the fifth inning, when junior third baseman Josh Fitch hit a deep double to right center field.

Mersing’s shutout ended three batters later, when senior second baseman Kevin Hix singled up the middle, scoring Fitch.

Leading off the bottom of the inning, Vazquez responded by launching his first home run of the season high over the right field wall to extend Pitt’s lead to 5-1. He had three RBIs on Tuesday.

Vazquez launched his second home run of the game into the same spot in right field in the seventh inning, marking the first multi-home run game of the senior’s career.

Historically, the win is unsurprising, as Pitt has won 24 of its last 25 games against Youngstown State.

Pitt will continue its homestand on Friday as it hosts Wake Forest for a three-game weekend series.

“Wake Forest is one of the best offensive teams, not only in the ACC but in the country,” Jordano said. “So we’re going to have to be clicking on all cylinders in order to put us in a position to win.”

The first pitch of Friday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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Pitt’s offensive explosion snaps losing streak