Preview | Pitt baseball hopes to do the impossible against No. 2 Wake Forest


Hannah Wilson | Assistant Visuals Editor

Sophomore Tommy Tavarez runs to first base during Wednesday’s game against West Virginia at PNC Park.

By Ari Meyer, Staff Writer

Following a loss to West Virginia at PNC Park on Wednesday, Pitt will look to turn things around against college baseball powerhouse Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons (32-5) will look to improve on their No. 2 ranked season against an inconsistent Pitt (16-19) team. 

On the surface, this game looks decided from the start — a large win for the Demon Deacons. But that is not necessarily the case, as Pitt baseball, particularly the pitching, is so unpredictable.

Here is what to look out for in this game.

Pitt can compete with the big guys

Although Pitt has struggled mightily against opponents that they should not have conceded to, such as Youngstown State and Kent State, they are able to win in big games. Before losing 9-4 to West Virginia, Pitt had just come off of a series win against No. 7 Virginia in Charlottesville. 

Pitt is capable of winning against better opponents, but all of the pieces must come together. During the first Virginia game, junior pitcher Jack Sokol, who has a 7.11 ERA, was able to perform well above his metrics. The entire team needs to perform like Sokol if they want to compete with the Demon Deacons. 

This includes the batting, an area of play which Pitt has not struggled with heavily. The Panthers lost to West Virginia in the previous game both due to pitching and the batters not creating chances. Pitt will need to make sure that its batting ability does not dip below its average performance throughout the season in order to have a chance of putting up points.

Wake Forest’s pitching is mostly unhittable

While Pitt will likely require much help from its batters in the upcoming series, that help is unlikely to come due to Wake Forest’s incredible pitching. Wake Forest leads NCAA Division I in ERA, boasting a team average of 2.43 — 0.68 ahead of the next-closest team, Oregon State. They also rank first in Division I in hits allowed per nine innings, allowing just 6.49. 

Wake Forest’s rotation consists of four players — three of which have ERAs of less than 2.50. This group of three pitchers consists of junior Rhett Lowder, sophomore Sean Sullivan and sophomore Josh Hartle. Lowder, the anchor of the rotation, is considered by MLB Internal Scouting as the 14th best prospect for the 2023 Draft. Pitt is likely to face him once during their series.

All this adds up to a recipe for disaster for Pitt. They would have a significantly better chance against a team that is strong at the plate and not at the mound. Ultimately, that is not the case, as Wake Forest is a dominant defensive team and a top 50 offensive team as well. 

Pitt’s pitching is detrimental to their success

Pitt will start the series after coming off of a disappointing night at the mound against West Virginia. Junior pitcher Matthew Fernandez struggled with control issues at the plate for the entirety of his start, giving up seven runs on five hits before getting pulled. His relievers, sophomore Jonathan Bautista and graduate student Erubiel Candelario, continued the same trend, allowing a combined four earned runs to bring West Virginia to a total of nine.

This is important because Bautista and Candelario come in on relief for almost every game. With ERAs of 8.65 and 5.73, respectively, the above-average bats of Wake Forest could continue to wreak havoc on the weak pitching staff. Additionally, Pitt’s closer from the West Virginia matchup, sophomore Ethan Firoved, also pitches as a starter and has an ERA of 8.11. 

Pitt does not have a starting pitcher with an ERA lower than a 5.19, so any team that is able to make contact consistently should have no problem. Wake Forest has a team batting average of .297, so they should have a clear path to success against Pitt.

In all likelihood, this will be a tough series for Pitt. The odds are stacked against them, but they have beaten opponents of this caliber before. It is necessary for Pitt to start off strong in each game, continue to hold their momentum and pitch better than they have yet this season. 

Pitt will host the Demon Deacons at the Charles L. Cost Field in the Petersen Sports Complex, and the first game will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday. Coverage will air on ACC Network Extra.