Pitt softball hosted St. Francis at Vartabedian Field for an offseason double header Sunday afternoon. The Panthers struggled, losing both games due to defensive miscues and an anemic offense.
St. Francis opened the scoring early, putting up two runs in the top of the first inning. The first run came on an errant pitch from sophomore starting pitcher Kendall Brown. Defensive miscues from the Panther infield ultimately led to a second run crossing the plate just a few batters later.
The Panthers responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning on timely doubles from graduate student infielder Yvonne Whaley and sophomore utility player Kylie Griggs.
Things took a turn for the worse for the Panthers in the top of the third inning. With the bases loaded, St. Francis senior utility player Rachel Marsden hit Brown’s pitch into center field, adding on another two runs for the Red Flash. After another costly fielding error, Saint Francis extended its lead to five.
Pitt head coach Jodi Hermanek acknowledged that the team is still finding their footing defensively and said that they were sometimes too aggressive in the field. She referenced an ill-fated diving attempt from sophomore infielder Haylie Brunson that resulted in multiple runs for St. Francis.
“We need to be a little bit more selective with our aggression defensively in the outfield,” Hemanek said. “I like Haylie being aggressive, she’s learning right field, she’s learning outfield not being there before so she’ll get there.”
Midway through the top half of the third, Hermanek decided to make a change, giving sophomore pitcher Adriana Romano a turn on the mound. Romano allowed one hit in the frame but didn’t allow any more runs.
Down 6-1 in the bottom of the third, the Panthers desperately needed to put runs on the board. Fortunately, they got a spark from senior outfielder EC Taylor, who utilized her speed and stole second base after singling. Taylor is no stranger to wreaking havoc on the bases — she stole 27 bases in 2021 and set a school record by stealing four bases in a single game against Virginia.
With Taylor standing on second, Whaley hit a double to left field, scoring Taylor and reducing the deficit to four. Whaley seemed to once again distinguish herself as the preeminent hitter in the Panther lineup. She dominated last season, leading the team in batting average, hits, runs and stolen bases. Whaley finished the first game in the doubleheader, going 2 for 3 with 2 doubles, an RBI and a run scored.
Romano carried her momentum into the fourth, stifling the Red Flash offense and keeping the Panthers within striking distance. She’d go on to give up an RBI double in the next inning, but otherwise managed a solid five-inning, one-run performance.
Despite Romano keeping St. Francis at bay, the Panthers were unable to get anything going on offense, remaining scoreless for the rest of the first game, ultimately losing 7-2.
In the second game, Pitt sophomore pitcher Dani Drogemuller started off strong. She made quick work of the Red Flash’s first two batters, but some mistakes from the Panthers defense threatened to undo her early success.
Senior infielder Kayla Lane made an error with two outs, and Drogemuller hit the next batter with a pitch, putting runners on first and second. Just a few pitches later, Lane made another error that loaded the bases. With her back against the wall, Drogemuller quickly struck out the next hitter and kept the game scoreless heading into the bottom half of the inning.
Whaley unintentionally got the Pitt offense rolling, landing on first after being hit by a pitch. Griggs put Whaley into scoring position after being hit by yet another errant pitch. Senior outfielder Bailey Drapola kept the momentum going, lacing a single to load the bases. Graduate student infielder Sarah Seamans productively hit into a fielder’s choice, bringing Whaley home for the first run of the game.
Drogemuller held the Red Flash’s offense at bay until the top of the fifth inning when St. Francis senior outfielder Lauren Aubry hit Drogemuller’s pitch down the right field line, miraculously flying around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. The two-run homer completely flipped the game on the Panthers, giving St. Francis a 2-1 lead.
Graduate student pitcher Abby Edwards relieved Drogemuller in the sixth and finished out the game for the Panthers. She was strong, notching three strikeouts in just two innings of work.
Despite a near-flawless performance from Pitt’s pitching staff, the offense couldn’t find its footing after the first inning. They only managed four hits as a team and were unable overcome the late deficit, dropping the second game of the doubleheader 2-1.
Hemanek was impressed by Drogemuller’s pitching performance, but said the offense needs to improve at situational hitting.
“Dani threw a great game today,” Hemanek said. “Offensively, we’re trying to do a little bit too much and not doing enough situational stuff. We’ll just go back to the drawing board tomorrow and get better at situations.”
The Panthers will return to Vartabedian Field on Oct. 8 at noon for a double header against Glenville State.
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