Pitt baseball take series against Virginia Tech, still have starting pitching issues


Ethan Shulman | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on Friday at the Petersen Sports Complex.

By Matthew Scabilloni, Staff Writer

Pitt baseball battled Virginia Tech in an ACC regular season series over the weekend, winning two of three games despite getting outscored by six runs. 

The Panthers started the series on Friday with a 5-4 win, thanks to junior infielder Justin Acal’s game winning RBI walk in the seventh inning.

The Panthers fell well short of their conference rival on Saturday, losing 20-12. In the series finale the Panthers once again won 5-4, this time thanks to an eighth inning game-winning RBI by graduate student infielder Sky Duff.

Here are some of the takeaways from this weekend’s series win.

Pitt needs more innings from their starters

None of the three starting pitchers for Pitt this weekend threw more than five innings in their weekend series, putting undue stress on the team’s bullpen. 

The Panthers bullpen pitched more than half of the team’s innings against Virginia Tech, burning through nine different arms in the process. Over the course of an entire collegiate baseball season, relying solely on relief pitching isn’t sustainable. 

With increased usage comes exhaustion, causing the team’s relievers to lose their edge or even risk injury. It also puts more pressure on the starters for the rest of the season to make up for their lack of early work load.

While Pitt might find success from overusing their bullpen now, the results aren’t sustainable. At some point the starting pitching must step up and take more innings, or the coaching staff has to at least adjust their strategy to evenly disperse the reliever’s’ innings.

The Panthers have a closer they can count on. 

Graduate student closer Nash Bryan is a pitcher the Panthers can count on for the rest of the season in close games.

Against Virginia Tech, Bryan closed both of the Panthers 5-4 wins. He pitched a total of 2 2/3 innings in the victories. Bryan threw brilliantly, not allowing any runs, hits or walks while striking two batters out. 

Virginia Tech got on base just once against Bryan over the two games, reaching on an error, which the Hokies ultimately couldn’t capitalize on. Bryan easily closed the game out by grounding out Virginia Tech graduate student outfielder Chris Cannizzaro in the first game.

On Sunday, with the series on the line for both sides, Bryan impressed again for the Panthers. He entered the contest in an eighth inning jam with a runner on base in a tightly contested ballgame. 

In the eighth inning jam, Bryan faced Virginia Tech sophomore infielder Carson DeMartini, forcing him to line out into an inning ending double play. The clutch play completely switched the game’s momentum to the Panthers’ side with just an inning left to play.

In the ninth inning of the series-clinching win, Bryan again maintained his composure. He started the inning by popping out Virginia Tech sophomore infielder Christian Martin. Bryan ended the game with authority, striking out both Virginia Tech first-year infielder Garrett Michel and junior outfielder Carson Jones.

In short, Bryan just dominated the Hokies. Virginia Tech isn’t a bad offensive baseball team — they have a .312 team batting average — and Bryan still held them hitless.

Pitt’s starting pitching is still a major issue for Pitt’s success in the future — but Bryan’s performance made it clear that the Panthers can at least finish games strong.

Coming up next, the Panthers take on in-state rival Penn State on Tuesday at 6 p.m on the road.