Panther Spotlight: Hess, Vera, Phillips impress as spring rolls in


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Sophomore outfielder Kyle Hess is the team leader in hits (17), RBIs (18) and total bases (32).

By Ben Mankowski, Staff Writer

Warmer weather is moving into the city of Pittsburgh and bringing spring sports right along with it. Multiple Panthers are already making their case for a strong year while others are closing out their impressive winter seasons.

Kyle Hess, baseball

Pitt baseball is off to a red-hot start in nonconference play, currently sitting at 10-1 following a recent trip to the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational. The Panthers went undefeated in the sunshine state thanks to an onslaught of scoring and dominant pitching.

Sophomore outfielder Kyle Hess highlighted Pitt’s explosive offense, boasting a .354 average on the year due to a strong performance at the plate in Florida. Hess batted a dominant .412 with four doubles, one triple and one home run on the trip.

Hess’ most impressive single-game performance this season came on Feb. 29 against Lehigh, when he went 3-3 and was only a single away from hitting for the cycle. Pitt won the game 10-0 with Hess contributing two runs and six RBIs.

As the team leader in hits (17), RBIs (18) and total bases (32), Hess is a player to keep an eye on as the Panthers look to maintain positive momentum going into their home opener on Wednesday.

Blaise Vera, men’s swimming

The Pitt men’s swimming and diving team capped off a solid ACC season, posting 520 points in the ACC Championships — surpassing the the program’s previous record of 513. Junior sprinter Blaise Vera led Pitt’s strong effort with a series of quality finishes.

Vera’s first individual honors came on Thursday, when he earned sixth place in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 19.54 seconds. The next day, he took sixth again in the 100-yard butterfly, finishing in 46.22 seconds.

On the final day of competition Saturday, Vera swam the 100-yard freestyle and 400-yard freestyle relay. In the 100-yard freestyle, he competed in the consolation final and won to give the Panthers a crucial 20 points toward their total. This placed Vera at ninth overall in the event, though his winning time of 42.61 was fast enough to make him runner-up in the championship heat.

Vera also contributed to the 400-yard freestyle relay, where the Panthers blew Georgia Tech out of the water to solidify their position on the day.

Breanna Phillips, track and field

The Panthers’ track and field team had a busy day at the ACC Indoor Championships. Three Panthers highlighted the podium finishes for the team along with many strong efforts in every event. Junior Breanna Phillips did not reach the podium but posted impressive numbers in three events.

Phillips competed in the pentathlon, long jump and 800-meter dash. In the pentathlon, she notched a personal best of 3,739 points to secure fourth place and second team All-ACC honors for her first time. Her score is also the program’s fifth-best of all time.

Phillips later placed fourth in the long jump and 800-meter dash. Her long jump totaled 18 feet and 7 inches for a personal best.

Phillips will look to continue her strong performance in all three events as the track season moves outdoors.