Pitt softball notches first ACC win in series finale vs. Boston College


Pitt catcher Valerie Ortega records an out at home plate in the Panthers’ doubleheader Saturday against Boston College. Elaina Zachos | Senior Staff Photographer

After eight straight losses to open up conference play, the Pitt softball team picked up its first ACC win of 2017 Saturday night.

The Panthers (16-13 overall, 1-8 ACC) fell to the Boston College Eagles (17-12 overall, 4-2 ACC) in the first two games of the weekend series at Vartabedian Field. Pitt lost the series opener 3-2 Friday night and dropped game one of a doubleheader Saturday afternoon 4-2. The team avoided getting swept by a third straight conference opponent by winning the series finale Saturday night, 4-2.

Pitt head coach Holly Aprile said she knew before the series Boston College would present a difficult matchup for her squad.

“We were feeling good going into the series, but they are a really tough team,” Aprile said. “For the first two games, I think we just weren’t doing enough at the plate. We made a couple mistakes defensively too, but weren’t able to generate enough hits or put enough offense together.”

Game one

Junior Kayla Harris started the series opener for the Panthers but suffered a minor injury, forcing her to exit the game after just one inning. Pitt Athletics spokesperson Casey Bonk didn’t know the in-depth details of the injury, but said it was nothing serious.

First-year pitcher Brittany Knight pitched six innings of relief, giving up two earned runs on 10 hits in a 3-2 loss.

Sophomore third baseman Olivia Gray started off the scoring with a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning. First-year catcher Valerie Ortega then drove in a run with a single to right field, giving Pitt a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third.

That lead evaporated in the top of the fourth inning, as Boston College center fielder Lexi DiEmmanuele tied the game with a two-run single to center. DiEmmanuele came through again for the Eagles in the top of the sixth, lacing an RBI single to right field to put Boston College on top.

The Panthers couldn’t even the score in the final two innings and dropped the series opener, 3-2.

Game two

Knight took the circle again for game one of Saturday’s doubleheader and held the Eagles scoreless in the top of the first. She overcame a fielding error by sophomore second baseman Alexis Solak, ending the inning with a ground ball double play.

Third baseman Tatiana Cortez started the top of the second with a solo home run to get Boston College on the board. DiEmmanuele added an RBI single, then right fielder Taylor Coroneos brought home a third run for the Eagles with an RBI groundout.

DiEmmanuele was back at it again in the third, contributing her fourth RBI single of the series to give Boston College a four-run cushion.

Pitt got a run back in the bottom of the third when first-year left fielder Hannah Edwards tripled to right field, bringing home fellow first-year outfielder Alexee Haynes. Haynes scored again in the fifth to make it a 4-2 game, doubling down the right field line and coming home when Edwards reached base after a throwing error on a bunt attempt.

The Panthers recorded three quick outs on three fly balls in the top of the sixth inning, including an impressive reach on a catch by junior Erin Hershman in center field. But the Eagles shut Pitt’s bats down the rest of the way, posting back-to-back 1-2-3 innings to clinch a 4-2 win.

“Brittany [Knight] did a good job in the first game. She really had us in the position to win the game, but we just couldn’t get those hits we needed to,” Aprile said.

Game three

Sophomore pitcher Sarah Dawson took the mound for the Panthers in the series finale to make her first start of the season. She proved to be just as effective an option as Harris or Knight, tossing a complete game while giving up only two runs to guide Pitt to its first ACC win of the season.

“I had a really strong defense behind me, and that made a difference for sure,” Dawson said. “It didn’t matter to me, coming in as the third pitcher. It was nice being the fresh pitcher that they hadn’t seen.”

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, Hershman smacked a run-scoring single into right field to put the Panthers on top. Gray then led off the bottom of the third by nailing a solo home run to straightaway center field, her third of the season and second of the series.

Boston College responded in the top of the fourth with a two-run homer by shortstop Chloe Sharabba to tie the game at two, but Pitt took the lead back in the bottom of the fifth when junior shortstop McKayla Taylor came home on a passed ball.

Dawson fired a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth, then Ortega led off the bottom of the sixth with a single into center field. Sophomore Marissa DeMatteo entered the game to pinch run and came home on senior Kaitlin Manuel’s single after the Eagles left fielder misplayed the ball, allowing it to go all the way to the wall.

“They were only pitching me outside, the entire weekend,” Manuel said. “I was finally able to just square up and hit it into left. It was such a relief to finally be able to get that.”

Dawson kept Boston College off the board in the top of the seventh to earn her first win of the season in the 4-2 victory.

The Panthers will next host the in-state rival Penn State Nittany Lions for a nonconference showdown at Vartabedian Field Wednesday at 5 p.m.