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Pitt softball team loses two vs. James Madison, splits pair with East Carolina

Pitt+junior+Kayla+Harris+lost+two+outings+over+the+weekend+against+No.+13+James+Madison+and+East+Carolina.+John+Hamilton+%7C+Visual+Editor
Pitt junior Kayla Harris lost two outings over the weekend against No. 13 James Madison and East Carolina. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

Pitt junior Kayla Harris lost two outings over the weekend against No. 13 James Madison and East Carolina. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

Pitt junior Kayla Harris lost two outings over the weekend against No. 13 James Madison and East Carolina. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

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After starting the season with nine wins in a row and earning the first national ranking in program history, the Pitt softball team has stumbled into a slump.

Inclement weather forced the cancellation of last weekend’s James Madison University Invitational in Harrisonburg, Virginia. So Pitt (14-8 overall, 3-0 ACC) instead traveled to Greenville, North Carolina, for two games each against James Madison and East Carolina.

The Panthers defeated the Pirates 5-2 Thursday, then lost to No. 13 JMU 2-0 Friday morning. East Carolina avenged itself against Pitt with an 8-3 win Friday afternoon, and JMU defeated the Panthers again Saturday morning in a decisive 11-0 beatdown.

Game one

First-year starting pitcher Brittany Knight took the circle for Pitt against East Carolina Thursday, pitching a complete-game victory to improve her record to 8-2 on the season. Knight allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings of work.

The Panthers struck first with an RBI single from third baseman Olivia Gray in the bottom of the second inning, then tacked on two more in the third on shortstop McKayla Taylor’s second home run of the season.

Pitt followed with a pair of runs in the fourth to take a 5-0 lead, then Knight recovered after allowing two runs in the bottom of the fourth to shut the Pirates out the rest of the way.

Game two

Junior Kayla Harris got the start for the Panthers against JMU Friday morning, while fellow junior pitcher Megan Good  — a first-team All-American in 2016 — put her perfect 12-0 record on the line for the Dukes.

Good had no trouble improving to 13-0 on the year, dominating Pitt’s lineup to the tune of 12 strikeouts over seven shutout innings with two hits and one walk. Harris took the loss after allowing two runs on five hits in six innings pitched.

Panthers left fielder Hannah Edwards led the game with a triple to left field, but her teammates couldn’t bring her home. Neither team got on the board until the bottom of the fourth, when JMU used an RBI double from right fielder Taylor Newton and RBI single from infielder Odicci Alexander to strike first.

That was all the scoring the Dukes would need, as Good allowed only one baserunner after the third inning while polishing off the 2-0 shutout.

Game three

Harris started again Friday evening, but this time she didn’t make it out of the first inning after an ineffective start.

Pitt head coach Holly Aprile turned to Knight to replace Harris with two on and two outs in the bottom of the first and East Carolina already leading 2-0. Knight gave up an RBI single to Pirates first baseman Morgan Halo, but stranded a pair of runners to end the inning with the Panthers trailing 3-0.

Infielder Meredith Burroughs led off the bottom of the third with a solo home run for East Carolina, then Pitt got a run back in the fourth on Knight’s RBI groundout. But the Pirates broke the game open in the bottom half of the inning, bringing home four runs on a pair of homers by right fielder Kacie Oshiro and Burroughs.

Pitt scored again in the fifth on an RBI single by Gray, who added an RBI double in the seventh. But that wasn’t enough to mount a comeback as the Panthers fell 8-3.

Game four

Pitt’s last game of the weekend was the team’s worst showing so far this season, as the Panthers fell by mercy rule after five innings against JMU, 11-0.

Knight allowed 10 runs on 12 hits over 4 1/3 innings, making for the worst start of her college career by far.

The Dukes jumped on Knight quickly, tallying four runs on four hits in the top of the first inning. They added one more in the third and fourth, then scored five in the fifth on a pair of home runs to take a commanding 11-0 lead.

Alexander completed the five-inning shutout for JMU, giving up just two hits with six strikeouts and no walks in the win.

Pitt will travel to Louisville, Kentucky, to resume ACC play against the Louisville Cardinals at 4 p.m. Friday, March 17.

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Pitt softball team loses two vs. James Madison, splits pair with East Carolina