The Pitt News

T.J. Zeuch gem sparks 2-1 series win against Wake Forest

By Stephen Caruso / Contributing Editor

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Following a game in which he set career worsts in earned runs and hits, Pitt sophomore pitcher T.J. Zeuch needed confidence.

“After the last two weeks, any pitcher [is] going to have his confidence shaken,” said Zeuch, who went 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA and 2.56 WHIP in his last two starts.

Carrying a three-game losing streak into the game, and with ACC wins leader Matt Pirro on the mound for Wake Forest (22-16, 9-9 ACC), change did not seem likely.

But the Panthers (14-20, 6-12 ACC) rode a complete game from Zeuch on Friday to a 8-3 win and 2-1 series win over the Demon Deacons at Charles L. Cost Field.

With runners on second and third base, no outs and Wake Forest’s most dangerous hitter at the plate, it looked like Zeuch was in for another rough start on Friday.

But a dribbler by sophomore first baseman Will Craig, Wake Forest’s leader in RBIs and candidate for the Golden Spikes Award — awarded to the best player in college baseball — showed Zeuch was not going down easy.

“As I kept going, [with Wake Forest] barely hitting the ball, hitting toppers, striking out, it added to my confidence” Zeuch said. “All week, I worked on speeding [my pitching] up a little bit so everything is in sync. And then today I threw that first inning, and it really showed.”

After allowing one more run on a groundout in the top of the first inning, Zeuch’s teammates rallied for three runs in the bottom of the first, including the first career home run by freshman shortstop Charles LeBlanc. After that hit, Pitt would not trail again in the game.

Sophomore Nick Yarnall, playing as the designated hitter, keyed Pitt’s hitting, going 2-2 with two walks, a run scored and an RBI on a triple in the first inning.

“We were set, first pitch, ready to swing,” Yarnall said.

For Wake Forest, Pirro struggled with his command, walking five and hitting one player, leading to a 5-3 Pitt lead after five innings.

While Pirro struggled, Zeuch only became stronger as the game continued.

“When a pitcher is confident, it’s real hard to hit him,” he said.

The game stayed tight into the bottom of the eighth, when Pitt struck for three runs — two with two outs — which made Pitt head coach Joe Jordano’s decision to keep Zeuch in the game easy. Zeuch completed the game to set a new career high in innings pitched while striking out seven players.

“It was a really solid win for us. We swung the bats well, we played really well defensively and obviously T.J. pitched a great game,” Jordano said.

After Friday’s strong start to the conference series, Pitt dropped Saturday’s contest 12-4, using eight bullpen arms to attempt to stop the bleeding. Yarnall continued his hot hitting by going 2-4 with a double and an RBI.

“I was just trying to see the ball up, and anything inside, until I got two strikes, so if it was away, I’d lay off the balls in the dirt, just try to see the ball up, and put a good swing on it,” Yarnall said.

With Sunday’s game deciding the series, Pitt came out strong, taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning, led by a bases-clearing triple from redshirt freshman right fielder Frank Maldonado.

While Wake Forest brought the game to 4-3 in the fourth inning, senior outfielder Boo Vazquez responded with a three-run homer to give Pitt a commanding 7-3 lead. The Panthers would go on to win the game 8-4.

With the win, Pitt won its first ACC series since March 13-15 against No. 11 North Carolina, which it won 2-1. Following that, it was 1-8 in conference play against Duke, North Carolina State and Notre Dame.

“When you are able to save your bullpen and get a couple of insurance runs late with a couple of two-out hits … something that we haven’t been doing, that’s really the way we play baseball,” Jordano said. “That’s Pitt baseball.”

The Panthers play Kent State at home on Tuesday before traveling south to Tallahassee, Fla., to play Florida State in another conference series. The first pitch of Tuesday’s game is scheduled for 3 p.m.

 

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T.J. Zeuch gem sparks 2-1 series win against Wake Forest