While it was an exciting run, all good things must end — and that’s what happened for the Pitt baseball team Saturday afternoon when a 5-2 loss to the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals put an end to the No. 12 Panthers’ ACC Baseball Championship bid in the semifinal round in Durham, North Carolina.
After beating No. 8 Georgia Tech and No. 1 North Carolina in its last two tournament games, Pitt entered the ACC semifinal — its first in program history— as an underdog. And although the Panthers cut the deficit down to one late in the game, it was Louisville junior second baseman Devin Mann who ultimately proved to be the difference-maker.
Mann hit three of the Cardinals’ five RBIs and two of their five runs. He went 2-3 on the day, with both his hits — a triple and a home run — coming at crucial moments for his team.
Pitt fell behind in the bottom of the first inning when Mann hit a one-out triple to score sophomore shortstop teammate Tyler Fitzgerald from second base. Pitt sophomore pitcher Dan Hammer struck out the next two batters, leaving Mann stranded on third base going into the second inning.
With the Cardinals holding a 1-0 lead, the two teams battled to a scoreless draw over innings two and three. Mann gave the Panthers trouble once again in the fourth inning, as he drew a walk, stole second base and proceeded to score off an RBI double from junior outfielder Josh Stowers. After Pitt head coach Joe Jordano replaced Hammer with senior pitcher TJ Pagan, the Cardinals scored one more run on an error by Panthers redshirt sophomore shortstop David Yanni.
Trailing 3-0, Pitt’s batters continued to struggle against Louisville sophomore pitcher Nick Bennett. Bennett cruised through the first five innings, striking out six while allowing just two hits and no runs. But the Panthers finally saw success in the top of the sixth inning when first-year outfielder Ron Washington Jr. knocked a home run just over the right field wall, scoring himself and Yanni to make the score 3-2.
The Cardinals threatened to increase their lead again in the bottom of the sixth, with the first two batters hitting singles to put runners on first and second with no outs. Jordan elected to swap Pagan out with junior relief pitcher Yaya Chentouf, the Panthers’ leader in saves. The move paid off — Chentouf forced a double play and a strikeout to get his team out of the jam unscathed.
In the seventh inning, with Pitt still trailing 3-2, Chentouf found himself facing Mann with two outs and a runner on third. Like he did all day, Mann came up clutch, knocking a triple — which was determined to be a home run after replay review — over the left field wall to score himself and sophomore third baseman Justin Lavey.
The Panthers failed to string together consecutive hits in the eighth and ninth innings, leaving a runner stranded on third at the end of each. The game ended with junior catcher Cole MacLaren striking out swinging, leaving first-year outfielder Chris Cappas on third base as Pitt lost by a final score of 5-2.