Pitt softball pulls record above .500 after 3-1 weekend in South Carolina


Photo by Matt Hawley/Pitt Athletics

Pitt graduate student pitcher Ally Muraskin (30) pitches at a Texas A&M Invitational game against Stephen F. Austin State University on Friday.

By Nicholas Aaron, Staff Writer

Pitt softball (8-5, 0-0 ACC) entered the Wings ETC Classic in South Carolina with a record that was just one game over .500. But after the dust settled from all four games played this weekend, the Panthers found their record well above average, having gone 3-1 across the five-game slate, with one cancellation.

Pitt notched blowout wins on the first day of competition over Tennessee Tech and Cleveland State. After Saturday’s successes, Sunday’s results were closer and more varied — Pitt barely squeaked by host USC Upstate in eight innings, and then dropped a close rematch to Tennessee Tech.

Pitt started off the weekend by taking on the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (9-5, 0-0 Ohio Valley Conference) on Friday. Redshirt first year Dani Drogemuller, who recorded her first complete game shutout, was the driving force behind this victory for the Panthers. She allowed only two hits and two walks, while striking out eight batters. After two dominant performances this weekend, Drogemuller’s season ERA has shrunk to a slim 0.78, and she’s now struck out 48 batters in only 44.2 innings pitched.

Drogemuller started off near perfect, throwing three hitless innings and striking out four of nine batters faced to start the game, but the Panther bats had yet to provide any support. In the bottom of the second inning with the bases loaded, the Panthers had a chance to drive in runs, but left all three runners stranded.

First-year utility player Haylie Brunson started Pitt’s scoring with a bang in the bottom of the third, launching a two-run homer — the first of her career. She finished the game 2-for-4 with a home run, triple and four RBIs.

Tennessee Tech put runners on second and third with only one out, and was threatening to score in the fifth inning. But Drogemuller shut the door quickly, recording a successive strikeout and pop-out. Pitt added a third run in the same inning, with a single from senior infielder Sarah Seamans that drove in fellow senior infielder Yvonne Whaley.

As the eventful fifth inning continued, Brunson hit the first triple of her career to drive in two runs, extending the Panther lead to 5-0. Sophomore outfielder Cami Compson drove in Whaley soon after for Pitt’s sixth run, putting the game well away as Drogemuller pitched a clean seventh for her first-ever shutout.

Pitt’s offense picked up right where they left off in game two, hanging up 11 runs on nine hits to defeat the Cleveland State Vikings (4-9, 0-0 Horizon League) in five innings. Compson had a career game, as she hit two home runs and a double, and finished the game with an eye-popping six RBIs. Brunson also continued to fuel Pitt on offense, tallying a double and three RBIs of her own.

Pitt posted a three-run first inning against the Vikings thanks to Compson’s first homer of the game, which brought in two runners and a Brunson single that drove in junior outfielder EC Taylor, who had stolen her fifth base of the season just before.

Then the Panthers exploded for five runs on only two hits in the bottom of the second — another Brunson single for a run and Compson’s second homer, a grand slam — to earn an eight-run advantage. Later, junior infielder Kayla Lane and junior outfielder Taegen Lewellen recorded a solo homer and an RBI single, respectively, to push the lead to 10.

Cleveland State hit a three-run homer in the top of the fifth to get on the board, but it was too little, too late for the Vikings, as Pitt’s bats rolled through the end of the game. Brunson hit her third RBI to drive in redshirt first year Jack Busch, ending the game by way of the mercy rule, since Pitt was ahead by eight runs after five innings.

The second day of action featured much closer games, including one that Pitt ended up on the wrong side of. The rematch with Tennessee Tech was a hitting clinic by both teams that featured 17 total runs, including eight in the first two innings alone.

Both teams traded runs, homers and base hits for much of the game. Tennessee Tech tied things up at 6-6 with a solo homer and a two-run homer to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth. The Golden Eagles added their ninth and tenth runs for insurance in the fifth and sixth innings, while Pitt could only muster one run in that span — a solo homer by senior infielder Sarah Seamans.

Junior pitcher Makenzie Stiles and first-year utility player Kendall Brown came up big for Pitt in key moments, closing the floodgates to possible Tennessee Tech scoring runs.

Brown recorded her second strikeout in the first inning with the bases loaded to hold the Golden Eagles to two runs in the inning, and Stiles pitched a scoreless bottom of the third, a rare occurrence in this game. Despite these spurts of impressive play on the mound, Pitt’s pitching wasn’t consistent enough to hold out and win the game.

In the final game of the weekend, Pitt found itself deadlocked in a 0-0 pitcher’s duel against the host team, the USC Upstate Spartans (12-1, 0-0 Big South Conference). Both teams could only muster with one hit each over the entire game. Drogemuller, the Panther ace, struck out a career-high 12 batters, allowing only five hits and one unearned run.

Pitt had a chance to break the tie at the top of the sixth inning when EC Taylor moved into scoring position with a single and stolen base. But the Spartans forced three consecutive outs by Panther batters and left her stranded. Upstate put a runner on first in the bottom of the seventh, but Drogemuller kept her cool and recorded back-to-back strikeouts that sent the game to extra innings.

Sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Burdick was placed on second base, as per international tiebreak rules, to open the seventh. A sacrifice bunt from junior outfielder Bailey Drapola moved Burdick to third, before a two-run homer from senior outfielder Katlyn Pavlick sent her home. Upstate scored one run to cut Pitt’s lead to 2-1, but Drogemuller again came up clutch with two strikeouts for the Panthers to survive this thriller. 

Next, Pitt heads to Tallahassee, Florida, for a three-game series with the Florida State Seminoles. All three games will air on the ACC Network, beginning with a 6 p.m. first pitch on Friday.