Pitt softball home opener soured by a familiar rival, look to improve on a shaky season


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Pitt redshirt first-year pitcher Dani Drogemuller (16) pitches at Wednesday’s game against Penn State Vartabedian Field in the Petersen Sports Complex.

By Christopher Cornejo, Staff Writer

Pitt softball welcomed their in-state rival Penn State (11-11, 0-0 Big Ten) to Vartabedian Field for their home opener after winning two of three games over the weekend. The Panthers (11-9, 1-2 ACC) fell to the Nittany Lions 6-0 following a lackluster hitting performance.

The first two innings showcased both teams’ defensive capabilities, with the game remaining scoreless entering the third. Redshirt first-year Dani Drogemuller started in the circle for the Panthers, striking out two batters with one fly-out to start the game. The top of the Panthers’ lineup all grounded out to end the first inning scoreless.

The second inning featured similar action. The Nittany Lions earned a hit, but didn’t earn any runs. The Panthers left a runner on base after the Nittany Lions hit sophomore outfielder Cami Compson with a hit and subsequent batters didn’t obtain a hit.

Drogemuller struck out, walked, and again struck out the first three Penn State batters in the top of the third inning. Junior infielder Cassie Lindmark then singled to center field to advance a Nittany Lion runner to third. Senior catcher Ally Kurland then singled again, opening up the scoring for the visitors. Kurland advanced off of a wild pitch and Penn State scored off another single from junior infielder Michelle Leone.

The Nittany Lions scored one run at the top of the fourth to push their lead to three. Pitt struggled to earn a hit through the first five innings. Junior Mackenzie Stiles replaced Drogemuller in the circle in the sixth inning. Drogemuller, who holds the No. 11 lowest ERA in the ACC, ended the game with seven strikeouts and credited the loss.

Even facing a new pitcher, Penn State continued to roll, adding three runs in the top of the sixth, taking a 6-0 lead. The Panthers’ defensive woes continued. Following an RBI double from Kurland, the Pitt coaching staff decided to replace Stiles with first-year Kendall Brown. She struck out Leone to close out the top of the inning.

A no-hitter is not how the Panthers would want to open their home season, and as the game approached the last inning, this possibility seemed dangerously close to reality. But despite poor at-bats on behalf of the home team, Penn State senior pitcher Bailey Parshall didn’t notch a no-hitter against Pitt.

Pitt sophomore outfielder Cami Compson (7) prepares to catch the ball during Wednesday’s game against Penn State Vartabedian Field in the Petersen Sports Complex. (Pamela Smith | Visual Editor )

Junior outfielder Taegen Lewellen finally broke through for the Panthers, earning their first hit of the season at home in the bottom of the sixth with a single to right field. Senior infielder Yvonne Whaley followed up with a single of her own, advancing pinch-running junior outfielder EC Taylor to second. First-year infielder Haley Brunson reached base on a fielder’s choice, but the Panthers’ rally died out before they could score any runs.

Pitt will return to Vartabedian field on Friday to take on Notre Dame in the first of a three-game conference series. This will be an important series for the Panthers that could set the tone for conference play for the rest of the season.

Pitt sophomore outfielder Cami Compson (7) prepares to catch the ball during Wednesday’s game against Penn State Vartabedian Field in the Petersen Sports Complex. (Pamela Smith | Visual Editor )

Following the series with Notre Dame (19-6 overall, 1-2 ACC), the Panthers will host No. 2 Virginia Tech (18-3 overall, 6-0 ACC). They will look to accumulate wins on their home field, especially since they will play host to the ACC tournament from May 11-14.

The Panthers’ last tournament appearance was in 2018, when they lost in the final to Florida State 5-4. They’ll look to make a similar run this year, hoping to play on their home field. The Pitt coaching staff will lean on Drogemuller, who, despite a below-average performance on Wednesday, is showing flashes of being one of the premier pitchers in the conference.

Pitt’s series against Notre Dame will start on Friday with a double header with games at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. The teams will wrap up the series with a game at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Friday’s games will be streamed on ACCNX and Saturday’s game will air on ACCN.