The Pitt baseball team started the weekend’s home series with a loss and a narrow win. But in the series finale, the Panthers trounced the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars.
Rain delayed the original Saturday 1 p.m. start time of the series-opening games between SIUE (18-24, 6-15 OVC) and Pitt (19-21, 8-13 ACC) until later that evening. The Cougars took the opener 6-4, but the Panthers came back from a deficit to narrowly take game two. Pitt dominated the final contest to close out the series with a 17-5 win.
“After that first game, it was a tough pill to swallow, but baseball is the type of game that you always have that next at-bat and next game to do better,” redshirt junior Frank Maldonado said.
The Panther’s slow start in the weekend’s opener kept them in a deficit until the bottom of the fifth inning, when four runs put them ahead. But the lead only lasted that inning, and the Cougars took back the game in the top of the sixth.
With redshirt junior Josh Mitchell on the mound, Pitt got the first two Cougars out. SIUE sophomore Brock Weimer scored his team’s first run with two outs and a home run to left field. The Panthers secured the third out when junior Dustin Woodcock hit a popup to shortstop and ended the top of the first at a 1-0 deficit.
Redshirt senior Jacob Wright’s triple hit to center field wasn’t enough for the Panthers to score a run in the first inning. With one out and a runner on third, the next two batters hit ground outs to end a scoreless inning for Pitt.
SIUE sophomore Jackson Layton grounded out a first, but his bunt brought in redshirt junior Jared McCunn during the second inning. The next scoring play was a double from redshirt freshman Eric Giltz who brought redshirt senior Jordan Stading home.The Panthers got the next two batters out and kept the score 3-0.
Neither team scored until the bottom of the fifth when the Panthers claimed the led with four runs. First-year Nico Popa hit an RBI double to left field, bringing home senior PJ DeMeo. Popa then scored when Wright smacked a double out to left-center field.
Redshirt junior Caleb Parry’s fly ball to center was enough to run in first-year Alex Amos and tie up the game. Pitt’s final run came from Maldonado’s RBI single to shortstop, which brought Wright home and closed out the inning 4-3.
The bottom of the fifth would be the first and last time the Panthers scored in the opening game. The Cougars scored two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to win the game 6-4.
The Cougars once again took an early lead, but a strong performance from the Panthers evened out the series with a 7-6 win.
Pitt senior Josh Falk took the mound first for his team. He allowed no hits in the opening inning, but a home run from SIUE first-year Aaron Goecks also batted in sophomore Chris Monasmith and gave the team a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
Amos scored off of Parry’s RBI single in the third inning to put the Panthers on the board, 2-1.
SIUE extended its lead in the top of the sixth with four runs. Monasmith scored on a single to right field from Giltz, and Stading came home shortly after on junior Mario Tursi’s hit to center. A double from senior Alec Skender brought in Giltz and Goecks to end the top half of the frame 6-1.
When DeMeo hit a double to right field, sophomore Alex Griffith ran home for the only score in the bottom of the sixth, making the game 6-2.
Redshirt junior Matt Pidich replaced Falk in the top of the seventh. Pidich struck out the first two batters, and the third batter hit a groundout to second base, keeping the Cougars from scoring.
Entering the bottom of the seventh with a hefty deficit, the Panthers looked set to lose the second game. But then Wright hit a double to run in sophomore Yaya Chentouf and senior Manny Pazos. Wright then followed them home and scored off of a wild pitch. Maldonado’s homerun to left field also brought in junior Nick Banman and put the Panthers in the lead, 7-6.
The remainder of the game remained scoreless, ending with a close win for the Panthers.
The Panthers started the final game in the hole, but an explosion from their offense in the third inning turned the lead around and helped them win the series finale, 17-5.
“I was very please with how well we swung the bat today, we settled down on the mound, the bullpen did a very nice job and we played very well defensively,” Pitt head coach Joe Jordano said.
Pitt trailed early on, but its offense came alive in the third inning when Parry cranked a ball out to left field. Following Parry’s solo home run, Banman sent a ball flying out of right field, batting in Pazos and giving Pitt the lead, 5-4.
“Hitting is very contagious, and you know once one guy gets a couple of hits. The next guy thinks he can, and the confidence starts to build and that keeps us going,” Banman said.
Pitt continued to add to the lead, stringing together a few consecutive hits to get runners on bases. SIUE’s pitcher Brendan Miller walked Amos, allowing Griffith to score. The Panther’s batted through their rotations until Parry came up again. He hit another ball into play and sent Amos and Chentouf home. Pitt finished the inning with eight total runs, making the score 10-4.
Both teams had quiet fourth and fifth innings, trading only one run. Pitt found a groove in the sixth inning and was able to pack onto the lead even more. Griffith rocketed a ball into left field, sending Pazos home. Amos then grounded into a double play, and was able to bat Banman in.
“Today I just found myself in a lot of plus counts and that allowed me to be able to sit on a pitch,” Parry said.
Following his strong performance in the third inning, Parry slammed a ball out of left field in the sixth for a base-clearing hit. DeMeo doubled to right field to score in Maldonado and end the sixth inning with the Panthers’ holding a commanding lead over the Cougars, 17-5.
SIUE fizzled out in the seventh inning, putting up no runs and ultimately ending the game. The NCAA has a mercy rule in which the game is called if a team is up by at least 10 runs.
“This is the first time all year a game was called,” Banman said. “I didn’t even know there was a spread limit, but it ended at seven and gives us more time to prepare.”
The Panthers’ finale win also secured the series against the Cougars, 2-1.
Pitt will host Maryland Eastern Shore next Tuesday and Wednesday for a two-game series.