Preview | Pitt baseball gears up for the 2023 campaign


Hannah Wilson | Assistant Visual Editor

Infielder Brock Franks (11) high fives a coach during a game against Clemson on March 25, 2022.

By David Scott, Staff Writer

Pitt baseball is set to kick off its 2023 season on Feb. 17 against Maine. The team looks different from last year’s, but will look to build off of the late-season success that the Panthers found in 2022.

The Panthers barely broke .500 in 2022, finishing 29-27. Despite their record, they put up a good fight in the ACC tournament, upsetting No. 7 Georgia Tech and No. 2 Louisville before losing to No. 10 NC State in the semi-finals. But the 2022 Panthers still couldn’t break into the NCAA Tournament, an accomplishment Pitt hasn’t achieved since 1995. Could 2023 be the year?

Before looking at the current roster, it’s important to see who the Panthers lost over the offseason. 

High-powered catcher Tatem Levins landed with the Seattle Mariners in the eighth round of the 2022 MLB draft. He hit for a monster .321 average, with 16 home runs, 53 RBIs and 43 runs scored. Five-year starting outfielder Ron Washington Jr. graduated after producing a 15 home run and 42 RBI season.

Pitchers Baron Stuart and Billy Corcoran also signed with the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks as undrafted free agents.

Despite some major losses, Pitt unveiled a 24-man recruiting class in September for the 2023 season. The class features 11 first-years and 13 transfers to help round out the team.

“We are extremely excited about this group,” head coach Mike Bell said. “It brings a lot of depth and fills a lot of holes left behind by a group that succeeded on the field and in the classroom, with 14 guys earning a degree or certificate last year.”

Bell believes that with the introduction of this class, the program as a whole is heading in the right direction.

“The future is bright, and we can’t wait to get started,” Bell said. 

The biggest position of need for the Panthers was pitching. The 2022 pitching staff had a combined ERA of 6.19. UNC, the 2022 ACC champions, had a staff ERA of 4.16. That two-point discrepancy is a huge flaw. The Panthers coaches worked hard to bring in talented additions to the pitching staff, among those Nash Bryan, Sam Falace and Zack Oswald.

Bryan is a graduate transfer from Seton Hill. In 45 appearances over three seasons, Bryan struck out 96 batters and pitched to a 2.11 ERA. Meanwhile, Falace is a first-year from Colonie, New York. In his senior season at Colonie Central High School he went 5-1 on the mound with a 0.95 ERA and struck out 66 batters. Oswald is a junior transfer from Hartford Community College. At Hartford, he went 5-0 in 13 appearances, striking out 71 batters en route to the JUCO World Series.

Alongside those three, the Panthers recruited 10 more arms to fill out their staff. Their class also included 11 hitters such as A.J. Nessler and Anthony LaSala to fill out the lineup

First-year Nessler is a very exciting utility man who had an impressive high school career. In his career at Tampa Jesuit, he hit .433 with 49 RBI, seven home runs and 41 runs scored. He was team captain and led his team to a Florida state title. LaSala is a first-year from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, and went to Hopewell High School. He was recruited as an infielder, hitting .382 with 40 runs scored. But he also went 5-4 on the mound, with a 1.39 ERA as a senior. Nessler’s presence as a two-way player is an interesting prospect for the Panthers this season. 

These are just a few of the additions that join names like outfielder C.J. Funk, outfielder Kyle Hess and infielder Jack Anderson, who all enjoyed impressive seasons for the Panthers last year. Pitt still doesn’t know who among the bench players and recruits fills the five starting spots open from last year.

Pitt starts the season on the road Feb. 17 against Maine and won’t play its home opener until Feb. 28 against Bucknell. Among their 2023 opponents, the Panthers will play the likes of North Carolina, Wake Forest and Miami at home, and Georgia Tech, NC State and Florida State away. They will also play the Backyard Brawl against West Virginia at PNC Park on April 19.

In its 55-game season, Pitt is scheduled to play 12 top-100 rating percentage index teams and eight 2022 NCAA Tournament qualifiers.

“This schedule will prepare and challenge us in many ways,” Bell said. “Competing on the road early should allow us to grow as a team. Competing against top-ranked opponents should prepare us to compete on a national stage. Our league and rival matchups are as strong as they ever have been. These both will create great experiences and memories for our student-athletes this upcoming season.”