Pitt baseball swings into season, wins three over weekend


The Panthers won three out of the season’s first four games this weekend at the Sunshine State Classic in Kissimmee, Florida. TPN File Photo

By David Leftwich | Staff Writer

The Pitt baseball team lost five players to the MLB Draft and three pitchers to elbow surgery over the offseason, leading analysts to question the Panthers’ depth and predict a last-place finish in the ACC Coastal Division this year.

But the Panthers defied negative predictions over the weekend with a strong start to their season in Kissimmee, Florida, winning three out of four games to open up the 2017 campaign at the Sunshine State Classic.

Pitt started the season with a come-from-behind win over Delaware Friday afternoon.

Delaware struck first, stringing together back-to-back doubles to score a run and inaugurate the game’s scoring. But after a rocky first inning, redshirt junior Matt Pidich shut down the Blue Hens and kept them scoreless. He finished the day giving up only one run on three hits, with four strikeouts over six innings of work.

The Panthers scored three runs on three hits in the fifth inning to take a 4-1 advantage over Delaware and held a lead for the rest of the game. After tacking on another run in the eighth off a single from redshirt junior Caleb Parry and fighting off a ninth inning comeback attempt from the Blue Hens, the Panthers closed out the game with a 5-3 victory.

The Panthers had two games on their slate Saturday, the first of which was against the Kansas State Wildcats.

The Panthers were on the board in the first inning, scoring one off of a double from redshirt junior outfielder Frank Maldonado. After plating another run in the fifth inning, the Panthers headed into the sixth with a 2-0 lead.

The Wildcats gained the lead in the sixth inning after a two-out rally in which Kansas State scored three. Responding to the Wildcat outburst, the Panthers scored a run in the sixth and another in the seventh to retake the lead at 4-3.

Just as it had been against the Blue Hens, the ninth inning was a problem spot against the Wildcats. With two outs, the Wildcats connected for a two-run home run, giving Kansas State a one-run lead over Pitt. Although the Panthers were able to put a runner on third with just one out, the next two batters struck out swinging to seal the 5-4 loss.

“That loss certainly stung,” said head coach Joe Jordano. “We had ample opportunity to push runs across and simply didn’t execute our situational at bats.”

The team bounced back later in the day against Ohio State with a 7-2 win. Senior pitcher Josh Falk threw eight strong innings to help shut down the reigning Big Ten champion.

Ohio State scored first off of a first inning ground-rule double, but from then on the Panthers dominated the game. First-year outfielder Nico Popa drove in two runs in the second with a ground-rule double of his own to give the Panthers their first lead of the game. The team powered through to win by a final score of 7-2.

The team concluded its trip to Kissimmee with another matchup against Delaware Sunday. First-year pitcher Dan Hammer made his collegiate debut during the game, giving up just one run on five hits over the course of seven innings.

The two teams were knotted up at one run apiece until the eighth inning. With two outs, the Panthers scored two runs off of a single by sophomore shortstop David Yanni. The Blue Hens loaded the bases in the ninth and scored a run to draw within one, but sophomore pitcher Yaya Chentouf entered the game in relief and quickly shut the door, forcing a quick Blue Hen lineout to end the game with a 3-2 win.

Next weekend, the Panthers will try to keep up their success when they travel to Vero Beach, Florida, for a three-game slate against Siena.

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