Pitt baseball closes season on a disappointing note


Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior outfielder CJ Funk (39) hits the ball in a game against Louisville on April 3, 2022.

By Jack Markowski, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt baseball entered the 2023 season riding high off its two best seasons since joining the ACC in 2021 and 2022. The Panthers couldn’t build off that momentum, however, due to an inexperienced pitching staff and a top-heavy lineup. 

Pitt finished the year with a 24-31 overall record while going 10-18 in conference play. The Panthers’ struggles against out-of-conference opponents throughout the season put an irreparable dent in their resumé and set them off on the wrong track. 

Pitt opened their 2023 campaign by going 7-6 against out-of-conference opponents. That stretch included a series loss against Maine and two-game series splits with both Stetson and Mount St. Mary’s. The Panthers dropped games against Penn State, Kent State and Youngstown State further into the year while also suffering a sweep in their season series against West Virginia

The Panthers closed the season with an unsightly record against the rest of the ACC, but there were still some positives and reasons for optimism moving forward. Pitt earned an impressive series win over Virginia Tech at home early in their conference schedule and took a series from No. 7 Virginia on the road. 

The Panthers also stole games from No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 11 Miami, despite losing both series. However, their series against the Hurricanes included two one-run losses, showcasing some potential and suggesting that Pitt wasn’t as far off from competing as it would appear on the surface. 

On the flip side, Pitt endured their fair share of struggles and shortcomings over the course of their conference schedule as well. The Panthers lost a pair of series against Florida State and Georgia Tech — both of whom finished among the bottom-feeders of the ACC. Pitt also unceremoniously concluded their season by getting swept by NC State in a series where the Panthers’ pitching staff allowed over 30 runs

Following the end of the regular season, the Panthers barely earned their third-straight trip to the ACC Tournament in a situation where winning it all was their only path to an NCAA Tournament bid. Pitt started off hot with a 9-5 win over Notre Dame after hitting five home runs, but were quickly trounced by Wake Forest in a 10-2 loss that officially ended its season. 

The Panthers, despite falling short of the ultimate goal as a team, saw some great individual performances on offense. Graduate student outfielder Kyle Hess led the team with a .327 batting average and 1.041 OPS while also hitting 10 home runs. Senior infielder Noah Martinez was the only other Panther with an OPS over .1000 and he did so while hitting .306. Junior outfielder CJ Funk tied Martinez for the team lead in home runs with 13.

Pitt’s young players made an impact as well. First-year utilityman AJ Nessler started 27 games and hit .293 with an .862 OPS. Sophomore catcher and outfielder Jayden Melendez, who transferred from Florida International, appeared in 35 games and hit 10 homeruns with a .909 OPS along the way. 

The Panthers’ offensive stats as a team, however, paint a different picture. They finished with the second-lowest batting average and fourth-lowest run total among ACC teams. Pitt also ranked in the bottom five in the conference for on-base percentage, slugging percentage and strikeouts. 

Pitt’s pitching staff didn’t fare any better. They finished with the lowest ERA in the ACC while also allowing the most hits and home runs against. Graduate student reliever Nash Bryan, who saved eight games with a 3.83 ERA, and junior reliever Dylan Simmons were the only true standout performers for the Panthers’ staff. 

Pitt baseball couldn’t quite repeat the success they found at times over the past few seasons in 2023. Its struggles came from a pitching staff that lost many of its top arms from a year ago and was largely inexperienced as a result. The Panthers’ offense couldn’t produce from top-to-bottom all year as well, placing them in a tough position. The program has reasons for optimism in the future, but there’s no denying that this season was disappointing across the board.