The Pitt softball team concluded its season this weekend in Atlanta by dropping two of three against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Pitt’s (24-23, 7-16 ACC) defense was mixed this weekend, giving up only two runs in game one before giving up a combined 19 runs in two and three. The inconsistent play has plagued the group all year, leading to their just above .500 record.
The opening contest of the series was a low-scoring affair with the Yellow Jackets (19-34, 7-16 ACC) escaping with a close 2-1 win.
All of the offense occurred during the first inning, and it looked as if it would be a high scoring game and a struggle for each defense.
Senior Kaitlin Manuel led off for the Panthers, getting to first after she was hit by a pitch. Junior Giorgiana Zeremenko then reached on a fielder’s choice, advancing Manuel to second. The bases were loaded one batter later after junior McKayla Taylor drew a walk. The next batter — first-year Alexee Haynes — hit a grounder to second. The fielder was unable to handle the ball, allowing Manuel to score, giving the Panthers a 1-0 early lead.
Brittany Knight started on the mound in the bottom of the first giving up two hits and a walk, but it was an error that allowed the Yellow Jackets to take the lead. First-year catcher Valerie Ortega threw the ball past sophomore Olivia Gray on a pickoff attempt at third. The error allowed Yellow Jacket senior Jessica Kowalewicz to cross the plate, and sophomore Katie Krzus came in when the ball went out of play.
After the first inning, the score was 2-1, but both pitchers found their rhythm quickly. For the remainder of the contest, neither offense could get much going. Knight went on to pitch over five innings, giving up no earned runs and only three hits.
Pitt’s offense couldn’t capitalize on the solid pitching, collecting only five hits for the game. Their best opportunity came in the seventh inning with runners on first and second and only one out. Zeremenko and Taylor both chances at the plate to bring them in, but they were retired on a strikeout and groundout, respectively.
The inning ended the Panthers’ hopes, and the Yellow Jackets took game one.
After the low scoring game Saturday, the Panthers and Yellow Jackets each took one game in Sunday’s doubleheader with a three-run homer by Zeremenko in the ninth giving the Panthers the first of two.
The game featured much more offense than Saturday’s contest, with the teams combining for 13 runs. Pitt got things started in the second, scoring on back-to-back RBI singles by sophomore Alexis Solak and junior Erin Hershman.
Down 2-0, Georgia Tech scored in each of the next two frames to take their first lead of the game. In the bottom of the second, Yellow Jacket junior Kelsey Chisholm hit a solo home run, cutting the deficit to one. One inning later, the Panthers gave up a walk and three straight hits, allowing Georgia Tech to take a 3-2 lead going into the fourth.
After a scoreless top of the inning, the Yellow Jackets extended their advantage to two on another solo home run, this time by senior Colleen Darragh. Pitt responded in the sixth though, with Haynes hitting a two-run home run, bringing in Ortega to tie the game at four.
Neither squad got any offense going in the seventh, and the game was headed into extra innings. Both Pitt’s Knight and Georgia Tech’s Emily Anderson pitched well throughout the latter half of the game, keeping things tied through the eighth inning.
The Panthers broke the tie in the top of the ninth on Zeremenko’s three-run shot over the left-center wall. The Panthers were up 7-4, but Georgia Tech senior Samantha Pierannunzi hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning to make it 7-6.
With the cushion down to just one, Knight was able to keep calm. She closed out the inning, giving the Panthers an extra-inning victory.
The third and final game of the weekend was the most lopsided of the bunch — Georgia Tech walked away with a comfortable 12-2 win.
Yellow Jackets sophomore pitcher Jenna Goodrich was shaky early, issuing three walks in the first two innings. But the Yellow Jacket defense kept the Panthers off the board, and the game was scoreless after an inning and a half.
Georgia Tech surged in the bottom of the second, scoring six runs to take a commanding 6-0 lead. Junior Malea Bell got it started with a solo home run on the first at-bat of the inning. After two singles and a sacrifice bunt, senior Jessica Kowalewicz made it 2-0 with an RBI single.
Pitt coach Holly Aprile decided to pull sophomore pitcher Sarah Dawson in favor of junior Kayla Harris, but the switch didn’t cool of the Georgia Tech offensive as junior Draven Sonnon hit a grand slam for the sixth run of the inning.
Georgia Tech added on one inning later, scoring five more in the bottom of the third. Harris was replaced by Knight after issuing two walks to start the inning, but she struggled as well. With the bases loaded, Kowalewicz singled to make it 7-0. Knight then hit a batter and walked another to put the Yellow Jackets up nine. Two more came in on a single by Chisholm and at the end of three, it was 11-0 Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets added one more in the fourth, and heading into the top of the fifth, the Panthers were faced with the mercy rule. Zeremenko and Taylor each hit solo home runs but the Panthers failed to mount a comeback, cutting the game short as the Yellow Jackets won 12-2 in five innings.
With their 7-16 ACC record, Aprile and the Panthers failed to make the ACC Tournament for the first time since 2014. Next year, the program should have a good chance to improve as all three starting pitchers will return.