Panthers win defensive struggle against Kent State

By Jessica Boddy / Staff Writer

The Pitt softball team didn’t let an afternoon downpour affect its game on Wednesday, and it weathered the storm to score just enough to beat the Kent State Golden Flashes.

Both teams exhibited stellar defense during the 3 p.m. matchup, as Pitt (26-14, 6-9 ACC) defeated Kent State 1-0 at Vartabedian Field. The Panthers’ effective communication and quick reflexes allowed them to render Kent State scoreless for the first game.

Senior pitcher Savannah King handily rounded up three outs in the top of the second inning. She tossed a pair of pop-ups to first and grabbed a line drive to the mound to shut down the Flashes. Freshman Kayla Harris pitched the remainder of the game as King cheered from the dugout, resting her arm for the upcoming road games this weekend.

“I’m trying to make [my arm] last another month and a half or so,” King said. “I definitely want to be ready for Syracuse this weekend.”

King’s teammates shut out the opposition despite her absence. Pitt exposed a Kent State weak spot in the bottom of the fourth. Junior Morgan Choe, who pinch ran for junior Jenna Modic, dashed home on a swing from senior center fielder Carly Thea.

The Flashes threatened to score shortly after, however.

In the top of the fifth inning, Kent State hit back-to-back singles to place runners on first and second base. Kent State senior center fielder Dani Ramos swung for a double, allowing junior Chloe Kesterson to round third base and score. Thea threw the ball home from center field to freshman catcher Giorgiana Zeremenko, who tagged out Kesterson, keeping the Flashes scoreless.

The Panthers also maintained their defensive composure in the top of the sixth, executing a double play at first and second base on a Kent State bunt. Pitt finished off the inning by forcing a ground out at first base.

“I thought from the defensive side of things we played really, really well,” Pitt head coach Holly Aprile said. “We got a double play when they were trying to sacrifice somebody over, which is huge.”

Harris continued to pitch well into the seventh inning, and Pitt infielders Maggie Sevilla, Kaitlin Manuel and McKayla Taylor aided the momentum with two outs at first and second. Harris stepped up to end the game in a Pitt victory by striking out the final batter for Kent State to win 1-0.

“Our communication was great on the field,” Harris said. “We made great defensive plays. We had one or two double plays, actually. I had total confidence in my team and defense was outstanding today.”

Aprile added that her squad played lockdown defense, which complemented an effective offense. 

“I thought it was a really well played game,” Aprile said. “From the offensive side, we had really good at-bats. We didn’t have a ton of hits but we hit efficiently. Each phase of the game worked pretty well.”

Although the rain steadily increased throughout the game and ended up causing a cancellation for the scheduled 5 p.m. matchup, Pitt battled through the conditions to get the initial win.

“We all came out knowing it would be rainy at some point, but just hoping that it would delay for us to get one game in,” King said. “I’m glad we all came out here and were obviously ready to play. We got the game 1-0, and everyone did a really good job.”

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