Pitt baseball sweeps Virginia Tech behind stellar starting pitching

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Pitt baseball sweeps Virginia Tech behind stellar starting pitching

Redshirt junior Caleb Parry propelled the Panthers to an 8-2 win on Saturday with a three-run home run in the third inning. TPN File Photo

Redshirt junior Caleb Parry propelled the Panthers to an 8-2 win on Saturday with a three-run home run in the third inning. TPN File Photo

Redshirt junior Caleb Parry propelled the Panthers to an 8-2 win on Saturday with a three-run home run in the third inning. TPN File Photo

Redshirt junior Caleb Parry propelled the Panthers to an 8-2 win on Saturday with a three-run home run in the third inning. TPN File Photo

By Kait French | Staff Writer

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The Pitt baseball team is back above .500 after picking up a crucial three-game sweep against a conference rival.

Pitt (11-10 overall, 4-5 ACC) hosted the Virginia Tech Hokies (14-12 overall, 3-6 ACC) at Charles L. Cost Field for a three-game showdown over the weekend, and the Panthers won all three. Pitt took game one 9-5 Friday night, then won the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday 8-2. The Panthers then picked up a 3-2 win Saturday night to polish off the series sweep.

Pitt head coach Joe Jordano said his team excelled in all facets of the game against the Hokies.

“What we are trying to do is get these guys to understand that if we keep things simple and we execute the things that we control, we are going to be in good shape. And we did that this weekend,” Jordano said. “We pitched very well, we played remarkable defensively, we ran the bases well and we had timeless hitting. You do all those things no matter who you are playing and you are going to have a chance to win.”

Game one

Redshirt junior pitcher Josh Mitchell had an outstanding start in game one Friday night to earn his first win of the season. The lefty let up only three hits during his seven stellar innings on the mound.

Josh was outstanding,” Jordano said in a press release after the game. “Today was really special. Even when he got into a little bit of trouble, he kept pitching … that is what he is capable of every time he is out there. He has stuff that can beat anyone.”

Pitt took the lead in the first inning and never gave it up. Redshirt senior center fielder Frank Maldonado started the scoring, bringing redshirt senior left fielder Jacob Wright home with an RBI single.

The Panthers then continued their scoring in the third, scoring four runs on three hits from redshirt junior first baseman Caleb Parry, junior third baseman Nick Banman and senior shortstop P.J. DeMeo.

Virginia Tech third baseman Matt Dauby led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run to get their team on the board — the only run Mitchell allowed all game.

Jordano turned to senior Sam Mersing to replace Mitchell out of the bullpen to start the eighth inning with the Panthers leading 6-1. Mersing gave the Hokies their second run of the game on another leadoff homer — this one from second baseman Jack Owens — but got out of the inning without any further damage.

Pitt effectively put the game away in the bottom of the eighth, tacking on three runs on back-to-back RBI doubles by senior catcher Manny Pazos and first-year right fielder Nico Popa.

Despite facing a seven-run deficit, Virginia Tech made a spirited comeback attempt in the ninth. The Hokies trimmed the gap to four with a pair of home runs from pinch-hitter Stevie Mangrum and center fielder Rahiem Cooper. But the lead proved insurmountable as the Panthers held on for the 9-5 victory.

Game two

Redshirt junior pitcher Matt Pidich took the mound for game one of Saturday’s doubleheader and was poised to one-up Mitchell’s performance from a day earlier, retiring the first 12 batters he faced before walking first baseman Sam Fragale to start the top of the fifth.

Once again, the Panthers took an early lead and never let Virginia Tech back into the game.

First-year second baseman Alex Amos started things off for Pitt with an RBI single in the bottom of the second. One inning later, Parry clubbed a powerful three-run homer to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead. Banman hit an RBI double in the bottom of the fifth to make it a 5-0 game before Pidich gave up his first run in the top of the sixth.

Junior reliever Isaac Mattson took the mound to replace Pidich with runners on first and second and nobody out, but he got out of the jam with Pitt still leading 5-1.

The Panthers then answered with three more runs in the bottom of the sixth on RBI singles from Popa and Branman and a bases-loaded walk by Maldonado. Mattson finished off the win for the Panthers, pitching four full innings of relief and allowing just one run to clinch the 8-2 win.

Game three

Following last Sunday’s performance where he tossed eight shutout innings in Pitt’s first ACC win over Notre Dame, senior Josh Falk took the mound for the series finale Saturday night.

He was almost as effective against the Hokies.

The game got off to a slow start until DeMeo reached the plate in the bottom of the second inning, as the senior shortstop launched a two-run homer to get the Panthers on the board first.

“It felt great, especially on the second end of the double header and facing Connor Coward. I grew up playing against him, so it was fun,” DeMeo said. “It was fun to get that homer and to give us a kickstart. I was glad to get the boys the 2-0 lead and set the pace for the game.”

Meanwhile, Falk fired four scoreless innings before giving up a solo homer to center fielder Matt Caples in the top of the fifth. Fragale then tied the game for the Hokies with a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth.

Falk came back out and put up another zero in the seventh, finishing with two runs allowed on six hits, no walks and a career-high 10 strikeouts in another solid start.

“Every time I go out, I know we are going to have everybody picking each other up,” Falk said. “As long as we get that W as a team, that’s all that matters to me.”

First-year right hander Chris Gomez came in to relieve Falk to start the eighth and hurled a perfect 1-2-3 inning. Maldonado then led off the bottom of the eighth with a double to center and came home to score on a single by Banman to give Pitt a one-run lead heading to the top of the ninth.

Gomez came back out and tossed another flawless 1-2-3 inning to seal Pitt’s 3-2 win.

“I told them postgame that I was very proud of how they just keep working, and they keep grinding, and that was a great weekend for us,” Jordano said.

The Panthers will try to continue their winning streak Tuesday night when they host the rival West Virginia Mountaineers at the Cost Center for the Backyard Brawl at 6 p.m.

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