Takeaways | Pitt baseball starts season slow, pitching needs to tighten up


Hannah Wilson | Assistant Visual Editor

Pitt baseball players huddle during a game against Clemson at the Petersen Sports Complex on March 25, 2022.

By David Scott, Staff Writer

Over the weekend, Pitt fell to the Maine Black Bears, taking one out of three games in its opening series. For a team that’s desperate for an NCAA Tournament bid, it’s necessary to start racking up the wins early. If their opening series was an indication of things to come, the wait for a tournament appearance may continue. 

The Panthers stole a win in the season opener, surviving a three-run ninth inning from the Black Bears to win the game 11-10. They weren’t as fortunate in the next two, losing 11-7 and 8-5. 

There’s a lot to digest from these first three games. Here are my takeaways.

The Panthers’ pitching staff is extremely unreliable

Pitching was a problem for the Panthers last season, putting up the ACC’s third-worst ERA at 6.24. The first three games of this season are a worrying sign, as Pitt’s pitching staff allowed eight or more runs in each of the games.

In game one, junior Kyle Mosley started the game pitching four innings and allowing three earned runs. He was then replaced by junior Dylan Simmons, who gave up four earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Sophomore Jonathan Bautista came in to rescue Simmons in the fifth inning and went on to pitch three scoreless innings. In the ninth inning, graduate student Nash Bryan allowed three earned runs and only recorded one out. Junior Brady Devereux came in to save the game, not allowing a run in two-thirds of an inning.

Game two was more of the same. Sophomore Ethan Firoved gave the team a solid start, only allowing two earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. Then, in only one inning of work, junior Jack Sokol allowed six earned runs, giving Pitt a deficit it couldn’t overcome. After, junior Holden Phelps, sophomore Kyle Demi and sophomore Quin Konuszewski combined for 4 2/3 innings, only allowing two earned runs.

The Panthers finally held Maine under 10 runs in game three — only allowing eight. Graduate student Erubiel Candelario started the game and allowed four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work. Next came junior Zach Oswald, who didn’t allow a run but only pitched one-third of an inning. Junior Matthew Fernandez came in to pitch 2 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs. Devereux once again closed out the game, this time allowing two earned runs in two innings of work.

Pitt is only three games into the season, but seeing the pitching staff put up a 9.33 staff ERA and a 2.19 staff WHIP to start the season is very concerning. So far, the long ball has killed them, with the Panthers giving up six home runs in the series. They also need to bring down the walk total, as they are currently allowing over seven walks a game. If Pitt is going to have a successful season, it is going to have to address the pitching issue quickly.

The Panthers batting lineup can do damage

The way things currently stand with Pitt baseball, the team’s lineup is going to have to outhit their opponents rather than rely on the pitching staff. They showed that they could in game one of the season, when they won 11-10. But having to score 11 runs per game isn’t a great recipe for success — but right now it’s a necessity for the Panthers. They couldn’t outscore Maine in the second two games, but they are showing that there is some star power among Pitt’s hitters. 

Senior catcher Jack Anderson is off to a great start, batting .500 over the first three games and coupling that with a .625 on base percentage and a .667 slugging percentage. Two of his six hits are doubles, and he scored three runs during Pitt’s three game stretch.

Graduate infielder Sky Duff started hot during the weekend series, batting .417 with a .563 on base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. His five hits resulted in a double, two RBIs and three runs scored over the series. He also stole a base.

Sophomore infielder Tommy Tavarez joined Duff with a .417 average to start the year. He also matched Duff’s .563 on base percentage, but posted an improved .583 slugging percentage thanks to two doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored. He also stole a base and walked four times.

Pitt could have two candidates for ACC Freshman of the Year

First-year infielder Anthony LaSala impressed during the opening weekend. Despite going zero for three in the final game against Maine, his batting average sits at .417 — the second-best on the team.

LaSala started all three of the Panthers’ games and got 12 at-bats. Over those opportunities, he got five hits, a double, scored two runs and batted in two RBIs. Thanks to this weekend’s performance, his slash line sits at .417 batting average/.417 on-base percentage/.500 slugging percentage, an impressive set of stats. If he keeps up his current pace over the full season, LaSala will contend for ACC Freshman of the Year.

First-year utility man A.J. Nessler put together the most impressive weekend out of all of Pitt’s hitters. He started all three games and posted a .333 batting average over that stretch. Over his nine at-bats, Nessler knocked in six RBIs, by far the most on the team, and hit to a .429 on base percentage with a .778 slugging percentage. He also walked three times, scored two runs and hit one of the Panthers’ three home runs. His 1.207 OPS is second-best on the team and, if maintained, will compete with the best in the country by the end of the season.

Pitt baseball will look to bounce back in a four-game series against Harvard starting on Friday.