Coming off a series win against SIU Edwardsville, the Pitt baseball team climbed back to .500 this week, taking both games against Maryland Eastern Shore at Charles L. Cost Field.
Pitt (21-21, 8-13 ACC) pounded the Hawks (10-35, 6-13 MEAC) in both games, sweeping the series by a combined score of 29-5. The team collected 23 hits to the Hawks’ 12 while committing only two errors. It was a much needed series win for the squad as they return to ACC play later this week.
“This series we had a game plan of getting several players and pitchers that haven’t played a lot some experience, and just trying to fine tune some of the things we need to work on,” Pitt head coach Joe Jordano said.
Looking to extend their winning streak to three, the Panthers pulled away late in the opening game of the series after UMES surged to take a one-run lead in the sixth.
Freshman pitcher Chris Gomez got the Panthers off to a strong start defensively, retiring each of the first six batters he faced. Pitt also went down in order in the first, but took a 1-0 lead in the second with an RBI single by junior third baseman Nick Banman.
Gomez gave up a few hits in the next two frames but was able to maintain the lead, giving up no runs and only one hit in four innings. Redshirt junior Matt Pidich came on in relief in the fifth, retiring the Hawks in the top of the inning.
The Panthers extended their lead to two in the bottom of the fifth, as senior catcher Manny Pazos smacked a home run over the right field wall.
UMES responded though, loading the bases with nobody out in the top of the sixth. Jordano replaced Pidich with senior pitcher Sam Mersing, but he was unable to get the Panthers out of the jam, giving up three runs — one on a groundout which scored one and two RBI single by junior Isaiah Chambers.
Going into the bottom of the inning, the Panthers were down 3-2 but quickly tied the game on an RBI triple by redshirt junior Caleb Parry. Frank Moldonado — another redshirt junior — then reached first on an error by the Hawks. He and Parry were driven in by Pazos with two outs, giving the Panthers a 5-3 lead.
Pitt wasn’t done scoring — freshman Zach Zientarski hit a two-run home run to right field, giving Pitt 7-3 at the end of the sixth. The team added on the next inning, as Pazos drove in senior PJ Demeo and Banman. Pazos had five RBIs in the game, and his seventh inning hit gave his team a commanding 9-3 lead.
Neither team was able to get anything going in the eighth, but UMES cut into the lead in the ninth with an RBI single by redshirt senior Jordan Martin. It wasn’t enough though, as Pitt was able to close out the game, winning 9-4.
The Panthers found themselves down early on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon but came out swinging on offense, demolishing the Hawks by a score of 20-1 in the second game.
UMES capitalized on some defensive errors by the Panthers in the first and took an early 1-0 lead. It would be their only run of the game. It was all Pitt from there on out.
The second and third innings were massive for the Panthers. In the second inning, Pitt went up 3-1 on a pair of RBI singles and a bases-loaded walk issued by UMES freshman Andre Bell.
Things got worse for the Hawks in the third as the Panthers’ offense totaled seven runs in the inning. The team drew four walks, one of which resulted in a run. After a two-run double by first-year Alex Amos, the Panthers took a 7-1 lead as Popa came home on a wild pitch. Parry hit another two-run double, and DeMeo drove him in two batters later to put Pitt up 10-1 after only three innings.
The Panthers had good plate discipline all day, drawing eight walks off the Hawks. Parry said one of the most difficult aspects of the series was adjusting to UMES’s pitchers.
“It’s a tough adjustment to face pitching like this compared to normal ACC arms,” Parry said. “Just figuring out your timing is the biggest thing.”
Banman added to the lead with solo home run in the fourth, and the team took a 13-1 lead in the sixth after Zientarski was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
In the seventh, Moldonado drove home Popa with a two-out double. One batter later, DeMeo brought in Amos and the Panthers were up 15-1.
The scoring ended in the eighth, but it was another big inning for Pitt. A walk by redshirt senior Jacob Wright brought in a run before Parry piled on with a grand slam — the first at Charles L. Cost Field since 2013. UMES was retired in the ninth and the Panthers won in dominating fashion, 20-1.
Both Maldonado and DeMeo had great games and were ecstatic with the result. DeMeo pointed out the team’s defense as being a big bright spot in the series.
“Defensively we’ve been really solid for the whole season and everyone’s getting really comfortable out there and it proves how much we can keep going, building off of our defense and how much we trust the pitchers to throw strikes and make plays,” DeMeo said.
Maldonado said that although it was a non-conference game, they still treated it as if it were a big ACC battle.
“Everyday we come to the field and expect to play to a specific standard, the Pitt way, and that’s what we tried to do today,” Maldonado said. “From a team standpoint I think it was great to see the offensive surge really separate us from that team.”
The Panthers now travel to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets this weekend. Jordano said the Yellow Jackets will provide a stiff challenge for his squad, but he thinks they’ll be up to the task.
“Mentally, physically and emotionally, we have to be ready to play and I think we will,” Jordano said.