Baseball: Panthers pick up two out-of-conference wins

By Dustin Gabler

The Pitt baseball team picked up two wins this week over teams that defeated the Panthers… The Pitt baseball team picked up two wins this week over teams that defeated the Panthers earlier this season.

Pitt senior Anthony DeFabio said the nonconference wins over Akron and Penn State will help the team build momentum for a weekend series against the Big East’s first-place team, South Florida.

“We beat two quality teams this week, which is great, especially coming off a sweep this past weekend,” DeFabio said.

The two out-of-conference matchups gave manager Joe Jordano an opportunity to try new pitchers as starters and allowed the hitters to get more in-game swings.

“Midweek games give us an opportunity to work on some things and a chance to go compete,” senior Rick Devereaux said. “This week helped us get back on track as we prepare for USF.”

The Panthers host South Florida this weekend at the Petersen Sports Complex.

“We needed a boost after the UConn series,” sophomore Casey Roche said. “I think we feel a little better about ourselves and have some confidence back headed into the weekend.”

Pitt 9, Akron 5

The Panthers fell to the Zips 12-4 earlier this season in the Snowball Classic, but Tuesday’s game went differently on Akron’s home turf.

J.R. Leonardi made his first career start as a Panther in the game and picked up the win in 5.1 innings of work. He allowed two runs on six hits while striking out eight batters.

The Pitt offense took advantage of four walks and one timely single by Roche that drove in Boo Vazquez and DeFabio for two runs.

With two outs in the third inning, three walks and a hit by pitch brought home a third run for Pitt.

Both squads plated two runs in the sixth inning, and Leonardi was removed from the game following a troubling inning. Dave Yakopec took Leonardi’s place for the Panthers and finished the game.

Elvin Soto connected for a single in the seventh, moved up to third base on two wild pitches and was driven home with a sacrifice fly by Roche.

In the ninth inning, Pitt scored three runs, highlighted by a two-run single for Evan Oswald.

Yakopec encountered some trouble of his own in the ninth, when the Panthers had a seven-run lead. He allowed four hits for three runs, but Jordano kept him in the game. Yakopec finished the day with a 3.2-inning save.

“J.R. did a solid job for us today, and Dave came in and did well,” Jordano said. “It was a very cold day, but we played a clean game and took advantage of some opportunities. It was good to get a win.”

Pitt 5, Penn State 3

After falling to the Nittany Lions in State College earlier this season, the Panthers sought revenge over their in-state rivals Wednesday at Charles L. Cost Field.

Alex Caravella, usually a bullpen arm for Jordano, got the start for Pitt and effectively cooled off a Penn State team in the midst of a six-game winning streak.

Penn State started the scoring in the top of the second with two runs on one hit and an error by the Pitt defense.

The Pitt offense knotted the game up at two in the bottom half of the frame when Stephen Vranka and Oswald both connected for hits that scored Mike Douglas and Vranka, respectively.

The Panthers scored two more runs in the fifth when Soto singled to right field, scoring DeFabio and Oswald.

Penn State got one run back in the sixth inning to narrow the deficit to one.

Caravella was pulled following six innings of work. He allowed just one earned run and two hits.

Luke Novosel and Joe Harvey combined to throw three scoreless innings as the Panthers hung on for the lead.

Pitt added an insurance run in the seventh inning when DeFabio singled in Derik Wilson.

“I was very pleased with today’s performance. I think we gave them a few too many opportunities early in the ballgame, but we rebounded extremely well,” Jordano said. “It was nice for us to get the W. We came up with some big hits and some big pitches. Overall it was a very solid performance.