Panthers’ pitching leads the way versus Saint Francis


Colleen Nguyen | Staff Photographer

Pitt junior outfielder Bailey Drapola (24) prepares to bat during Wednesday’s softball game vs. St. Francis.

By Jermaine Sykes, Staff Writer

Under the gloomy Pittsburgh sky, the Panthers did just enough to get past in-state opponent Saint Francis (20-13 overall, 8-1 NEC). Pitt (13-16 overall, 1-9 ACC) pulled out a 3-1 home victory on Wednesday.

It wasn’t a spotless performance, but the pitching staff did everything it could to pull out the win for the Panthers. Graduate student Ally Muraskin pitched four innings and only allowed one hit. Muraskin got herself into some trouble in the top of the third inning, when the Red Flash loaded the bases with one out.

Muraskin walked the next batter to put the Panthers down 1-0. That’s when head coach Jodi Hermanek visited the mound. Hermanek said she used the mound visit to calm her pitcher down.

“I just told [Muraskin] to settle down,” Hermanek said. “I told her to trust her pitches and make sure the rest of the defense was relaxed and not too into the moment.”

Despite the shake-up, Muraskin escaped the inning without allowing any additional runs. Muraskin pitched a one-two-three inning in the fourth, striking out her last two batters to end her impressive day.

The Panthers tied the game up in the bottom of the third, as first-year designated hitter Haylie Brunson’s line out allowed senior infielder Yvonne Whaley to tag up and score.

The Panthers left 10 base runners on base. The Red Flash played near-spotless defense and pitched well enough to stay within arm’s reach. Saint Francis’ sophomore pitcher Grace Vesco pitched five innings, threw six strikeouts and only allowed one run.

An offensive performance like this could have left the Panthers on upset watch against Saint Francis if it weren’t for redshirt first-year pitcher Danielle Drogemuller. Drogemuller came in relief for Muraskin at the top of the fifth and pitched two consecutive one-two-three innings, allowing the Panthers to stay in the ball game. Drogemuller said she knew it was a close game, but she didn’t let it affect her.

“We were basically at a zero-zero ball game so I just came in and worked on my pitches,” Drogemuller said. “I just tried to control what I could do.”

The offense capitalized on Drogemuller’s performance in the bottom of the sixth and took the lead after junior outfielder Bailey Drapola drove in a run with a double to left center field.

The Panthers led 3-1 going into the seventh inning and Drogemuller came out for a final inning. Her lone allowed hit came with a shot to right center to lead off the inning. But sophomore outfielder Cami Compson threw out the runner trying to extend the hit into a double. Vartabedian Field erupted after the throwout and Hermanek said she knew it was “huge” in securing the win.

“It was huge,” Hermanek said. “If [Compson] doesn’t make that play, who knows what happens.”

The Panthers, though, need to find a way to get more consistent. The win against Saint Francis is big within the circumstances, but the Panthers should have handled the Red Flash with less stress. The win ends a Panther win drought that saw them win just one game in their last 10. But regardless of how it looked — a win is a win.

“This was a big win coming off of last weekend in Syracuse,” Hermanek said. “It’s great momentum for us going into the series against Clemson.”

Momentum is just what the Panthers need at this point of the season, according to Hermanek. They are just 1-9 in ACC play and have four remaining ACC series against Clemson, Boston College, Virginia and Duke.

“Moving forward, we have to keep playing with this edge we have,” Drogemuller said. “We have to take this momentum into our next series.”

The Panthers’ three game series against No. 18 Clemson takes place this weekend. Play begins Friday at 5 p.m. and fans can watch on ACC network.