Pitt baseball set to face season’s toughest test against No. 3 Virginia


Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer

Bryce Hullett swings the bat during a men’s baseball game versus Clemson on Friday.

By Jack Markowski, Staff Writer

Pitt baseball (18-12 overall, 7-7 ACC) is set to begin a pivotal series against No. 2 Virginia (26-6 overall, 9-6 ACC) this weekend, after ending its last three-game set on a high note.

The Panthers clinched their third-straight ACC series victory on Sunday against Boston College, and have now won eight of their last 10 contests. They have also secured victories in four of their last five contests with ranked opponents, and will now look to keep that trend going against one of the premier teams in the country inside Charles L. Cost Field.

After inconsistencies plagued play earlier in the season, Pitt’s offense has awoken at a crucial point. The Panthers scored at least six runs in each of their last nine games, a feat that has largely been driven by a power stroke. The team ranks within the top six in the conference for both home runs and slugging percentage, and six starters have registered at least five homers of their own.

Junior catcher Tatem Levins, a former ACC Player of the Week, led the Pitt offense, hitting 10 home runs along with an OPS of 1.077. Senior outfielder Ron Washington Jr. and junior outfielder Kyle Hess had excellent seasons as well, both with an OPS of more than 1.000 while mashing nine and eight homers respectively. Other key contributors include senior first baseman Bryce Hulett and junior third baseman Sky Duff, who holds an on-base streak of 30 games.

On the flip side, Virginia’s offense has also given opposing pitchers nightmares on a consistent basis. Not only does it rank first in the ACC in runs scored and second in batting average, it is top three in both categories across college baseball as a whole.

The Cavaliers are led by sophomore infielder Jake Gelof, who has cemented himself as one of the best players in the sport. He boasts an average of .398 and a slugging percentage of .894, to go along with 14 home runs. First-year infielder Casey Saucke and graduate student Alex Tappen round out the standouts for the ‘Hoos, with both having an OPS of more than .1000 as starters.

Pitt’s starting rotation has materialized into another strength, with both senior Matt Gilbertson and junior Billy Corcoran owning ERAs under four. Gilbertson, who has been the Panthers’ Friday night starter all season, owns a 2.98 ERA and is one of the better pitchers in the conference. Corcoran, the Saturday starter, started dialing his play up recently and hasn’t surrendered more than three earned runs in any of his four starts against ACC opponents.

On the flip side, sophomore Logan Evans rounds out the rotation and is projected to start on Saturday. He struggled after a strong open to the year, giving up eight earned runs to Louisville and five to Boston College in his last two appearances.

Virginia’s pitching staff as a whole has been dominant all year, ranking second in the ACC with a 3.30 ERA. Junior Nate Savino has led the rotation as the Friday starter and owns a 3.89 ERA, after striking out 49 batters over his 42 innings of work. Following him is graduate student Brian Gursky, who has a 3.09 ERA while striking out 42 batters over 35 innings, and has yet to record a loss. First year Matthew Buchanan is a name to watch, as he sports a miniscule 0.54 ERA coming into the weekend over 16 ⅔ innings, which includes two starts.

Coming off of a sweep at the hands of the No. 8 Miami Hurricanes, which included a 15-run blowup on Sunday, the ‘Hoos are looking to bounce back. Their resumé is still strong regardless, though, as they have series wins against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest as well as a midweek victory over Liberty.

After coming through against ranked opponents Louisville and Clemson in recent weeks, the Panthers will face this season’s toughest test this weekend when one of the best teams in the nation comes to Pittsburgh. They will have a chance to make yet another statement against Virginia, and bolster their late run at an NCAA Tournament berth.