Panthers trounce Orange in record-setting weekend


By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

Anybody looking at the box score from one of Pitt and Syracuse’s Saturday games might have thought the teams played a surprise game of spring football, as Pitt won 22-7.

But the sport in question was softball, as the Panthers (29-14, 9-9 ACC) used an offensive surge to sweep the weekend road series from the Orange (15-22, 1-10 ACC), punctuated by Saturday’s 22-run outburst.

Pitt won the first game of the weekend 8-6 for its 400th program win, and the Panthers continued their success with Sunday’s final matchup of 10-7. The offensive performance set new single-season program records for hits (254), doubles (68) and RBIs (229).

“It’s a nice milestone for the program,” Pitt head coach Holly Aprile said in a release. “We were on fire offensively, and I attribute that to our ability to be focused in the moment and by having a great plan and a great approach as a group.”

In the first game, Pitt gained an early lead when freshman McKayla Taylor hit a three-run double in the first inning. But the Panthers surrendered five runs between the fifth and sixth innings, which allowed Syracuse to make the game close.

In the fifth inning, Syracuse’s senior outfielder Mary Dombrowski hit a three-run home run to center field to make the score 7-5 Pitt.

The Panthers added an insurance run in the seventh inning in response when junior catcher Kathryn Duran hit a single to drive Taylor home.

In the next game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Pitt did not allow Syracuse to catch up. Taylor again sparked the Panthers early, hitting a three-run homer in the first inning to give Pitt a lead it would hold all game. By the bottom of the third, when Syracuse scored its first run, Pitt already led 12-0.

Pitt scored five more runs in the fourth inning, with sophomore Kaitlin Manuel hitting a double to center field to score senior outfielder Carly Thea and redshirt junior Maggie Sevilla.

Syracuse added four runs in the last inning of the game, but by that point, Pitt had gained an insurmountable lead.

Despite allowing seven runs in five innings, senior Alexa Larkin picked up the win as her team scored early in the game.

“McKayla Taylor had an amazing day, while Kait Manuel and Kathryn Duran weren’t far behind,” Aprile said. “It was just a tremendous team effort.”

In the third game of the series, Pitt continued its strong offensive weekend by tallying 10 runs to sweep the Orange.

Taylor hit another three-run home run in the fourth inning on Sunday to bring Pitt ahead 3-1. Redshirt junior Shelby Pickett hit a solo home run one inning later.

The Panthers pulled away with a three-run seventh inning when Pickett singled up the middle to drive two runs in.

Senior Savannah King pitched five innings on Sunday and allowed five runs.

The Panthers have now won four straight games after losing seven of their previous eight.

The team next plays on Saturday, when it returns to Pittsburgh for a weekend series against Virginia Tech. The first pitch of Saturday’s game is at 1 p.m.

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