Panthers baseball wins rollercoaster series versus No. 6 Virginia


Colleen Nguyen | Staff Photographer

Pitt first-year utility position player Josh Overbeek (17) prepares to bat during Friday’s game against the University of Virginia.

By Jermaine Sykes, Staff Writer

Pitt pulled off a key upset against No. 6 Virginia at Charles L. Cost Field this weekend, with the Panthers (21-13 overall, 9-8 ACC) winning the series two games to one against the Cavaliers (27-9 overall, 10-8 ACC).

While it wasn’t pretty, the Panthers continue to scratch and claw their way to much-needed wins over conference opponents, with some mistakes still to be corrected if they want to make a run in the postseason.

Virginia entered the weekend reeling from a four-game losing streak, while the Panthers were fresh off three consecutive ACC series wins. A win for the Cavaliers would have ended their skid, and a victory for the Panthers would set them up as contenders in the loaded ACC.

The Panthers emerged victorious, winning games one and three. Game one saw senior pitcher Matt Gilbertson, who has gone at least seven innings in his last four starts, earn his fifth consecutive win over ACC opponents. Gilbertson pitched eight innings, surrendering four runs and striking out eight Cavalier batters.

Pitt senior pitcher Matt Gilbertson (45) pitches during Friday’s game against the University of Virginia. (Pamela Smith | Visual Editor )

The Panthers got offensive production from up and down the lineup. Junior catcher Tatem Levins and junior designated hitter Jack Anderson both tallied three hits apiece. First years Tommy Tavarez and Nick Giamarusti got hits, as well. The Panthers put up nine runs, and head coach Mike Bell said he was proud of the offensive output.

“The keyword is ‘team,’” Bell said. “The offense, with some new names in there, did a great job at building innings and putting together quality at-bats.”

Tavarez has been stellar as of late, homering four times in six games. His fourth was a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning that put the Panthers up 9-2. Bell liked how Tavarez is utilizing his playtime in his first season.

“He’s putting himself in good situations,” Bell said. “He’s really taking advantage of his opportunity.”

Senior pitcher Baron Stuart took the mound in the ninth and did not surrender any runs as the Panthers won game one, 9-4. This outing seemed to shift the momentum even further towards the Panthers.

But game two dashed dreams of a sweep. The Panthers were crushed by the Cavaliers, 18-0. Sophomore pitcher Logan Evans went four innings and gave up seven runs. The Panther bullpen gave up 11 runs and walked 12 batters.

Almost nothing went right on offense for the Panthers. As a team, they only tallied four hits. The Panthers recorded zero extra-base hits and struck out seven times.

The lone success was junior infielder Sky Duff continuing his on-base streak to 55 games, which spans back to last season.

The Panthers seemed to be two completely different teams in games one and two — a trend that has troubled them all season. Going to game three, momentum had swung to the Cavaliers. But the pendulum swung back Sunday, as the Panthers rebounded and won game three, 4-1, to take the series.

Junior pitcher Billy Corcoran tossed seven innings and allowed just one run. A day after the Pitt staff was hammered for 18 runs, it shut down Virginia.

Pitt players listen to the National Anthem before Friday’s game against the University of Virginia. (Colleen Nguyen | Staff Photographer )

At the plate, things weren’t always going the Panthers’ way, but they scored clutch runs when they needed to.

Tavarez was able to get on base consistently, walking three times. The most important free pass came in the seventh with the bases loaded. Four balls drawn by Tavarez allowed for Levins to score from third to put the Panthers up 3-1.

During the next at-bat, senior outfielder Ron Washington Jr. pinch hit for sophomore outfielder Dom Popa. Washington didn’t see much action this series as he’s resting an injured hamstring, but that didn’t stop him from hitting an RBI single that boosted the Panther lead to 4-1, one they wouldn’t lose.

Stuart again came in to close the game for the Panthers and pitched two scoreless innings for his fifth save this season.

The series win marks the fourth consecutive ACC win for the Panthers and boosts their resumé for the NCAA tournament. The Panthers could bolster it further this week, as they host Penn State at PNC Park on Tuesday at 6 pm. ACC Network will broadcast the game.