Pitt steals a win from No. 1 Virginia in weekend series

Despite facing the top-ranked team in the country, Pitt baseball held its own against Virginia in Charlottesville.

The Panthers secured a monumental upset on Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader, as they took down the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers 1-0. Pitt’s ace T.J. Zeuch made his first conference start of the season and did not disappoint.

The towering righty threw eight innings of scoreless ball, striking out eight in the process without allowing a walk. Although it’s early on, looking back in a couple months, this could very well be the best pitching performances Pitt has this season.

Zeuch, only a sophomore, now has two wins on the year, and has been the Panthers’ undisputed ace of the staff so far. Pitt head coach Joe Jordano had high expectations for him after a successful freshman season as the anchor of a Pitt staff comprised of mostly upperclassmen. Now that Zeuch finds himself as one of the more experienced pitchers on the staff, he has more than built on that success.

The Panthers’ lone run came in the seventh inning, when junior Ron Sherman drove in redshirt freshman outfielder Frank Maldonado, who led off the inning with a triple. The one blemish on the stat line of Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby would be all Pitt needed, as Zeuch pitched a scoreless eighth and sophomore Matt Pidich finished the game with an unblemished ninth for his first save of the season.

While the seventh inning was Pitt’s salvation in the win, the inning would be the Panthers’ downfall in the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday.

The teams entered the inning in a 1-1 tie until the Cavaliers manufactured a run when Christian Lowry singled to center field, stole second and was pushed to third after a sacrifice bunt by Justin Novak. Lowry scored on a fly ball in the next at bat.

The loss wasted a solid pitching performance by junior Aaron Sandefur. Sandefur followed up Zeuch’s excellent effort with 6.1 innings pitched and only two runs allowed.

Virginia pitcher Connor Jones improved to 4-0 on the season, pitching seven innings of one-run ball. Nick Yarnall was the culprit of that stat line, driving in Pitt’s only run in the fourth with a double.

Sunday’s game did not go as planned for the Panthers, as they fell to the Cavaliers by a score of 10-3. Pitt jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but Virginia struck back five runs of its own in the frame against Pitt pitcher Marc Berube.

The Panthers could not hold one of the nation’s most potent offenses at bay. Virginia exploded for ten runs on the day, including an astounding thirteen hits.

Virginia pitcher Brandon Waddell pitched a modest six innings, giving up three runs, as his offense provided plenty of run support in the process. Shortstop Daniel Pinero led the way offensively for the Cavaliers, contributing four hits and two runs batted in.

Freshman shortstop Charles LeBlanc had the most success at the plate for the Panthers on Sunday, as he was the only player to record more than one hit.

The results drop Pitt to 4-8 on the season. While disappointing, the Panthers still have a long season ahead against much lesser opponents than those they have played so far this year. The tough opening schedule should set the Panthers up well, as they were able to find the pieces needed to be a successful team on the field this season, including an ace of the pitching staff and several cornerstones in the lineup.

Pitt will begin its first home series on Tuesday against Niagara. A return home could provide much-needed familiarity for the team, as it hopes to move forward in the conference season.