Harris tosses perfect game as No. 19 Panthers go 3-2 over weekend


Pitt junior Kayla Harris hurled a perfect game in a 5-0 win over Southeastern Louisiana Sunday, helping the Panthers to a 3-2 record over the weekend. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

By Molly Appezzato | Staff Writer

The No. 19 Pitt softball team’s perfect record is no longer intact, but the Panthers achieved a different kind of perfection over the weekend.

Junior pitcher Kayla Harris tossed a perfect game in a 5-0 win Sunday over Southeastern Louisiana, part of a five-game slate in Troy, Alabama, against the Lipscomb Bisons, Southeastern Louisiana Lions and the host Troy Trojans.

“Today was so exciting,” Pitt head coach Holly Aprile said Sunday in a press release. “A perfect game is such a hard thing to achieve. A no-hitter is hard, but to have a perfect game is a real accomplishment.”

The Panthers (12-2) dropped their first game of the season Friday night in a narrow 1-0 loss vs. Lipscomb, then bounced back to defeat Southeastern Louisiana, 10-4. Pitt faced the Bisons again Saturday afternoon and won, 4-3, before losing to the Trojans in extra innings, 7-5.

The Panthers then sent Harris into the circle Sunday to try to salvage a winning record for the weekend. Harris did that and more, tossing the second perfect game in program history in the 5-0 win over Southeastern Louisiana.

Sophomore Sarah Dawson pitched Pitt’s first-ever perfect game in a 13-0, five-inning win over Providence Feb. 27, 2016 — almost a year ago to the day. Dawson has taken on a relief role for the Panthers this season with the emergence of first-year pitcher Brittany Knight in the starting rotation alongside Harris, who was a 16-game winner last season.

Harris made three stellar starts over the weekend and even picked up her first save of the season, but she reached a new level on Sunday.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Harris said Sunday in the press release. “I wasn’t paying attention to it the entire game. I was just focused on getting three outs every inning and putting my team in a successful position to win.”

Game one

Before throwing her perfect game, Harris started the opening game of the weekend Friday and went four innings before giving up a hit against Lipscomb, narrowly missing out on another historic outing.

After pitching six innings of one-hit, shutout ball, Harris allowed a walk-off home run to first baseman Caitlin Plocheck in the bottom of the seventh inning, sending Pitt to its first loss of the season.

Game two

Pitt got back in the win column in the second game Friday against Southeastern Louisiana. Knight got the win, improving her record to 5-0 after holding the Lions to three runs in five innings of work.

Second baseman Alexis Solak started off the scoring for Pitt with her first home run of the season in the bottom of the second inning. Southeastern Louisiana responded with two runs in the top of the third, but the Panthers struck back with a five-run fourth to take a 6-2 lead.

The Lions scored in the fifth and sixth innings to make it a two-run game, but junior cleanup hitter Giorgiana Zeremenko blasted Pitt’s third home run of the game in the bottom of the sixth to seal the 10-4 win.

Game three

The Panthers pulled out their second win of the weekend Saturday afternoon and exacted some revenge against Lipscomb in a tight 4-3 win.

First-year left fielder Hannah Edwards reached base on an error and scored the first run of the game for Pitt on Zeremenko’s sacrifice bunt. Zeremenko launched her second home run of the weekend in the bottom of the fourth inning to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead, and Pitt scored two more runs on an error by Lipscomb’s left fielder to make it 4-0.

Lipscomb got a run back in the fifth, then started the sixth with a single and double to put runners on second and third. Aprile turned to Harris to relieve Knight out of the bullpen, and she got out of the inning with the Panthers still ahead, 4-3.

The tying run reached base for the Bisons in the top of the seventh, but Harris saved the win by getting second baseman Hannah DeVault to line into a game-ending double play.

Game four

Pitt then suffered its second walk-off loss in as many nights, losing 7-5 to Troy on an eighth-inning home run.

The Panthers tallied two runs in the top of the first inning on a single by Solak down the right field line, then the Trojans got a run back in the bottom half on an RBI double by Erica Davis.

Both teams hit home runs in the fourth inning, as sophomore right fielder Taylor Myers belted the first homer of her career to give Pitt a 3-1 lead. Troy first baseman Meg Willis then tied the score at three with a two-run shot.

The tie didn’t last long, as the Panthers pulled ahead in the top of the fifth on a pinch-hit, two-run single by sophomore Gabrielle Fredericks.

The Trojans then scored twice in the bottom of the seventh inning to send the game into extra innings. Troy’s senior shortstop Becca Hartley clubbed a two-run shot in the bottom half to send her team to a 7-5 victory.

Game five

Harris made her fourth appearance of the weekend Sunday morning, turning out the best performance of her college career as the Panthers matched up with Southeastern Louisiana for the second time.

Edwards started the game for the Panthers by singling to third base and stealing home to get the first run on the board. Neither team scored again until the top of the seventh when Pitt pulled out four more runs. Shortstop McKayla Taylor laced a two-run single to right field, then Solak knocked a two-run double down the left field line to make it a 5-0 game.

After six perfect frames, Harris came back out for the bottom of the seventh and tossed another 1-2-3 inning, clinching the Panthers’ shutout win and the first perfect game of her college career.

“After the final out, everyone was yelling at me that I threw a perfect game and that is when I realized it,” Harris said in the release. “I was pretty excited.”

Pitt is now 12-2 overall and will open up ACC play against the North Carolina Tar Heels at 6 p.m. Friday, March 3, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.