Takeaways | Softball wins four of five in a jam-packed weekend in Houston


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Graduate student infielder Yvonne Whaley (26) hits the ball in a game against Penn State on March 16, 2022.

By Jermaine Sykes, Senior Staff Writer

An action-packed weekend saw Pitt softball (10-4, 0-0 ACC) take a trip to Houston to play in the Houston Tournament. The Panthers got off to a good start, winning the first four games, before dropping their final game to Illinois (9-5, 0-0 Big Ten) in extra innings. 

Here are some takeaways from the weekend.

Seamans an early MVP for the Panthers

Graduate student infielder Sarah Seamans has started this season on fire. Seamans’ 1.500 OPS leads the Panthers and her performances this weekend played a big part in their success.

Seamans recorded hits in all five games, including three home runs and two doubles. Seamans’ perfect 4-for-4 batting and 3 RBIs in game three against Sam Houston helped give the Panthers a 5-1 win. 

Even in their 2-1 loss versus Illinois, Seamans accounted for the Panthers’ only run with a homer to center in the third inning. 

Performances like this aren’t new for Seamans, who is a fifth-year veteran for the Panthers. Seamans has started in 116 games in her career and has 23 home runs. But Seamans’ five home runs through 14 games are on pace to shatter her previous record of 13 in a season. 

If Seamans can keep up the production, the Panthers have a leader and surefire power hitter in 2023.

Panthers are finishing games to start the year

The Panthers lost by two or fewer runs in 10 of their 27 losses last season. It’s still early, but so far, the Panthers are much stronger at winning tight contests this season, which became evident after games one, two and four this weekend.

In game one, the Panthers jumped out to a 11-5 lead over Houston Christian with just two frames to go. The Panthers would surrender two runs in the bottom of the sixth, before surrendering another to open the bottom of the seventh. But sophomore pitcher Adriana Romano shut down the Huskies, flying out three batters in a row to end the game 11-8.

Game two saw the Panthers down one run early before sealing the deal with two runs in the fourth, and good pitching down the stretch gave them a 2-1 win over Sam Houston.

Game four was similar to game two, except this time Pitt found itself in a deeper hole. The Panthers were down 3-0 after the fourth inning. A single from graduate student Yvonne Whaley would bring in two Panthers baserunners before a solo shot home run from Seamans would tie the game at three in the sixth.

Another Whaley RBI in the seventh would give the Panthers a 4-3 lead that they would not surrender en route to a win over Houston.

While they weren’t successful in finishing out their final game against Illinois, the Panthers are playing complete games to start the 2023 season, and this is not something we saw in 2022. It’s still early, but head coach Jodi Hermanek should appreciate what she’s seen so far. 

Pitching staff needs to find its identity for the Panthers to compete

The Panthers’ pitching staff must perform better as a unit for them to compete for the postseason in 2023. Sophomore Dani Drogemuller, who’s already compiled 40 innings on the season, stepped up as Pitt’s ace. With five complete games in six starts, she is the Panthers ace and performed well this weekend, with two starts, two wins and two complete games, including a one-run allowed outing versus Sam Houston.  

But Drogemuller is the only Pitt pitcher with multiple complete games. In games where Drogemuller doesn’t start, the Panthers rely on Romano and graduate student Abby Edwards. Sophomore Kendall Brown and junior Julia Grobman have also started games but are utilized as bullpen pieces.

The duo of Edwards and Grobman surrendered seven earned runs in game one versus Houston Christian. Edwards would clean it up to end the series, getting the save in game three and allowing just one run in the process. But the run was costly, giving Illinois the win in game five.

Brown pitched well with just one run allowed and six strikeouts in the series, but the Panthers need overall consistency and defined roles in their pitching staff. Four different starters in the eight games Drogemuller hasn’t started is not ideal. The Panthers need Brown and Edwards to step up as reliable starters or for one to take the reins as the lead relief pitcher.

The Panthers travel to Huntington, West Virginia, to participate in the Thundering Herd Round Robin next weekend, with their first contest against Morehead State on Friday at 10 a.m.