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Pitt softball earns highest ranking in program history

Pitt+softball+reached+new+heights+Tuesday+afternoon+when+national+polls+ranked+the+team+No.+24+in+the+country.+John+Hamilton+%7C+Visual+Editor
Pitt softball reached new heights Tuesday afternoon when national polls ranked the team No. 24 in the country. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

Pitt softball reached new heights Tuesday afternoon when national polls ranked the team No. 24 in the country. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

Pitt softball reached new heights Tuesday afternoon when national polls ranked the team No. 24 in the country. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

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For the first time in the program’s 20-year history, Pitt has a nationally ranked softball team.

The Panthers are now ranked in the Top 25 in both the USA Today/NFCA Division I Coaches Poll and the ESPN.com/USFA Softball Top 25 Collegiate Poll. They came in at No. 24 in the updated USA Today/NFCA poll and No. 25 in the ESPN.com/USFA Softball rankings, both released Tuesday afternoon.

The Panthers received 82 points in the USA Today/NFCA poll, earning the No. 24 ranking. 32 head coaches, one from each Division I conference, voted in the poll.

Pitt also picked up 39 points in the ESPN.com/USFA Softball poll to slot in at No. 25. The ESPN.com/USFA softball poll is voted on by media members as well as coaches from 10 different Division I schools, one from each of the USA Softball regions.

The last time the Panthers received votes in the USA Today/NFCA rankings came in the 2016 preseason poll after the 2015 season. That year, Pitt made the ACC Championship game and NCAA Regional final. The Panthers also received votes in both polls during that groundbreaking 2015 season but never enough to crack the top 25.

Pitt allowed only nine runs in five games at the University of Central Florida Invitational last weekend, defeating the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats 3-1 in the season opener Feb. 10 before beating the host UCF Knights 6-0 later that night. The Panthers came back the next day with another win over the Wildcats by a 6-3 score and then defeated Florida A&M Saturday night, 5-2.

Finally, Pitt knocked off the Knights again in eight innings on Sunday, 6-3, to cap off the dominant performance.

Also on Tuesday, first-year pitcher Brittany Knight earned ACC Pitcher of the Week honors after picking up three wins and a save in her first weekend at the collegiate level. Knight didn’t allow a single earned run on the trip, leaving with a 0.00 earned run average after 16 2/3 innings of work.

Knight tossed a complete-game shutout to pick up her first win against UCF Friday night, allowing only three hits over seven innings of work. She then appeared in both of the Panthers’ wins on Saturday, picking up her first career save against Kentucky and allowing two unearned runs in 5 1/3 innings to register her second win against Florida A&M.

The Windham, Ohio, native pitched the final two innings of Pitt’s extra-inning win on Sunday to move to 3-0 on the season.

Pitt will return to play at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Friday, Feb. 17, in Tallahassee, Florida. The Panthers will face the Nebraska Cornhuskers at 4 p.m. Feb. 17 and 11 a.m. Feb. 18 and then take on the Northwestern Wildcats at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 and 10 a.m. Feb. 19.

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Pitt softball earns highest ranking in program history