After dropping all three games in a road series against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last weekend, Pitt baseball returned home Wednesday to play Youngstown State, winning 3-2 on a walk-off wild pitch in the 10th inning.
Pitt head coach Joe Jordano used six pitchers in the game and the strategy was effective as the Penguins had just two hits in the final eight innings. Jordano praised the play of his pitchers, saying the unit was instrumental in the team’s performance.
“Overall, I thought they did a really good job,” Jordano said. “They minimized [a] couple situations where Youngstown had runners in scoring position and we got through it. That builds some character with our younger guys and teaches them how to pitch in those situations.”
The Penguins had an opportunity right away, starting the game with two hits in three at-bats to put runners at first and third with one out. Pitt redshirt junior pitcher Matt Pidich responded, forcing junior Andrew Kendrick to pop up before striking out senior Nico Padovan to end the inning without a run.
Youngstown State sophomore pitcher Gino DiVincenzo retired the Panthers in order in the bottom of the first, and Pidich faced another jam in the second with runners on the corners. This time the Penguins converted, going up 1-0 when junior Trey Bridis crossed the plate on a groundout RBI by senior Alex Larivee.
Panther junior Nick Banman collected the team’s first hit in the bottom of the second — a leadoff single to right center. It didn’t lead to a scoring opportunity though, as the next three batters were retired.
Jordano pulled Pidich in the third, replacing him with first-year RJ Freure. The reliever was able to get out of the inning unscathed even though he walked a batter and hit another.
DiVincenzo — who came into the game with a 14.81 ERA — continued his strong start in the bottom of the third, retiring the side in order for the second time. Through three innings, Banman’s single was Pitt’s only hit.
But the Panthers came on in the fourth, tying the game on an RBI double off the left-field wall by redshirt junior Caleb Parry. He advanced to third on a groundout by Banman and was driven in one batter later when senior Manny Pazos grounded out to first. Senior PJ DeMeo struck out to end the inning, but Pitt was up 2-1.
While the Panthers have been down early in many games this year, Parry said the group’s ability to respond to adversity has allowed them to become a better team overall.
“They ended up scoring the first run — seems like that’s been happening to us a lot lately — but we’ve been showing some resilience [by] getting back in the game as we did today.”
Jordano made another pitching change to start the fifth, inserting freshman Chris Gomez for Freure. He allowed just one hit in the inning, but it was enough for the Penguins to score. Senior Lorenzo Arcuri hit a two-out single to left before stealing both second and third. Pazos’s attempt to catch Arcuri at third flew by Banman, allowing the runner to come home and tie the game at two.
Pitt had a chance to immediately retake the lead, as a two-out surge put runners at second and third with Parry coming to the plate. He couldn’t convert, fouling out to the first baseman to keep the score 2-2.
Bridis hit a leadoff double in the sixth, but Gomez and senior pitcher Sam Mersing — who came in with one away — retired three straight batters to avoid giving up any runs. Neither team was able to get much going offensively in the next few innings, and the score stayed tied at two heading into the final two frames.
The Penguins went down in order in the top of the eighth, and redshirt senior Jacob Wright got the Panthers going in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff double. Freshman Alex Amos followed with a groundout, but it was enough to advance Wright to third with one out. Parry popped up for the second out, bringing Banman to the plate with an opportunity to put Pitt back on top.
Banman fouled off several pitches to work his way to a full count, but he struck out on the payoff pitch, stranding Wright at third and keeping the game tied.
Pitt junior pitcher Isaac Mattson handled the top of the ninth, but the Panthers went down in order in the bottom of the inning and the game was headed to extra innings.
One inning later, the Panthers had another opportunity with runners on first and second with one out. Amos walked to load the bases, and Youngstown State junior pitcher Dion Felger threw a wild pitch on the next at-bat, allowing redshirt junior Frank Maldonado to cross the plate and win the game for the Panthers, 3-2.
The win marks the fifth-straight non-conference victory for the team, but while the team has had success against lower-level teams, they are far below .500 in the ACC. The top 12 teams in the conference make the ACC tournament, and the Panthers are currently tied for 12th with the Virginia Tech Hokies. Both Jordano and Parry said wins will come if the team continues to follow its game plan.
“We’re so thin from a position player standpoint that, those are our guys and they know what they have to do,” Jordano said. “We just have to go out and execute. There’s no secret formula, there’s no secret weapons. It is what it is, and we have to play hard.”
This weekend, the team has a chance to improve its standing in the conference during a three-game series against the North Carolina State Wolfpack. It will be a tough, but critical challenge for the Panthers, and Maldonado reflected on its importance after the game.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity for us to take advantage of the magnitude of this series,” Maldonado said. “It’s going to be a fun time. Everybody wants to play meaningful games at the end of the season and there’s nothing more meaningful than this series coming up.”