Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer
Pitt baseball played its first ACC series of the season at home this weekend against Virginia Tech. The 22nd-ranked Hokies swept the 14th-ranked Panthers in this weekend’s three-game series.
Head coach Mike Bell said after Sunday’s loss in the series finale that his team didn’t perform at its best against a quality opponent, thus the losses.
“We didn’t play our best baseball,” he said. “But at the end of the day you have to tip your cap, that’s a very good Virginia Tech team. They’re nationally ranked for a reason.”
Virginia Tech won game one on Friday 5-1. The Panthers offense couldn’t get going that day. Their only run came in the bottom of the fourth, when junior outfielder Ron Washington Jr. singled up the middle with the bases loaded.
The next two batters struck out and the Panthers left the bases loaded. Tech scored three runs in the final three innings, including a home run from first-year outfielder Gavin Cross on the first pitch of the seventh inning.
Junior pitcher Mitch Myers, who threw a complete game against Virginia on March 20, pitched just six innings, allowing two runs on four walks and six hits. Most measures would consider that line a solid start, but it was a far cry from the brilliant numbers Myers put up last weekend against Virginia.
The second game on Saturday didn’t fare much better for the Panthers, but their offense showed a little life late. Down 8-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Washington Jr. came through with a three-run blast to left field. That was the third of five straight hits for the home team, as the Panthers looked to complete a comeback similar to the one they pulled off against Georgia Tech two weeks ago.
But after a Hokie pitching change, Tech junior Shane Conneley struck out three straight batters to end the game and cut short Pitt’s comeback.
Pitt junior pitcher Matt Gilbertson, like Myers, was coming off a fantastic start against Virginia, where he pitched eight innings and only surrendered two runs on five hits. On Saturday, he threw seven innings and pitched well through the first five frames, giving up one run on two hits.
In the sixth inning, however, Gilbertson gave up three runs on four hits. He admitted that the Tech lineup had started to pick up on his tendencies and take advantage of them.
“Those guys were aggressive,” he said. “They knew I was throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes, and they started jumping on them. Not all of them were bad pitches, but their hitters put good swings on it.”
Gilbertson pitched one more 1-2-3 inning before being pulled, and the Hokies won the game 8-4.
A rain storm that swept through Pittsburgh delayed the final game of the series two hours. When the game finally started up, both teams scored a run in the first inning. Pitt senior pitcher Steven Hansen tossed 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs — only three of which were earned — on six hits. One of those runs came off the bat of Tech’s first-year outfielder Carson Jones, who sent a pitch over the right field wall in the fourth inning.
The wind may have helped that home run. While the rain stopped before game time, the clouds and cold remained and the wind blew forcefully out toward right field. Nonetheless, junior outfielder Jordan Anderson said the weather was just part of the game.
“We can’t blame [our performance] on the weather,” he said. “We just didn’t play to our best ability. It happens, but we’ll try to get our mojo back for the next series.”
Anderson sparked a potential Panthers comeback in the bottom of the seventh. With men on second and third, the outfielder singled to center field and brought home both runners. After advancing to third on a Washington knock, Anderson would score himself on a ground out from sophomore outfielder Kyle Hess. The Panthers had tied the game at four with two innings to go.
That’s where the fun ran out for Pitt. In the next inning, senior infielder David Yanni dove for a ball and separated his shoulder, forcing him to miss the rest of the game. Tech would score two runs in that inning, and two more in the ninth to win the game 8-4. Anderson knew the impact of losing a player like Yanni, who currently leads the team in home runs with eight and RBIs with 22.
“It definitely hurts,” he said. “But we have the day off tomorrow, so hopefully we can get him back for next week.”
The Panthers will host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for their next series starting on Thursday, April 1. The three-game series was shifted up a day to account for Easter on April 4.