Baseball: Panthers drop 2 of 3 in conference tournament, miss out on field of 64

By Alex Oltmanns

The Pitt baseball team had a chance to succeed in both the conference and national… The Pitt baseball team had a chance to succeed in both the conference and national tournaments, but after losing its final series and disapointing in the conference tournament, the Panthers’ season came to premature end.

During the Big East tournament in Clearwater, Fla., last week, No. 3 seed Pitt lost two of three games. Their only win was against seventh-seeded Cincinnati. That led the Panthers to end the season by losing five of seven games, a stretch that put them on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

That bubble burst when the field of 64 was announced Monday.

“I am disappointed that we did not get a bid,” head coach Joe Jordano said. “I feel strongly we are one of the best 64 in the country. Unfortunately, it is what it is, and we have to accept it and move on.”

Pitt started the postseason slowly with a 9-5 loss to No. 6 seed Rutgers in the first game.

The Scarlet Knights jumped to a 9-0 lead after two innings, but the Panthers kept ace pitcher Corey Baker in the game, and he didn’t allow another run in four more innings of work.

Led by Kevan Smith’s 3 for 4 performance behind the plate, the Pitt bats came alive to cut the lead to four at 9-5, but the Panthers couldn’t get any closer.

“Being down 9-0 after the first two innings is difficult to overcome,” Jordano said. “However, we continued to battle hard, and we scored five making the game manageable. We just didn’t have enough to come all the way back.”

But the Panthers bounced back in the next game, defeating Cincinnati 13-4 to avoid elimination.

Smith continued his stellar play, going 4 for 4 with two RBIs, whereas Philip Konieczny went 3 for 4.

Meanwhile, pitcher Matt Iannazzo allowed four runs on 13 hits in seven and two-thirds innings to get his 11th win of the season.

The win set up a game against Connecticut, but the Panthers weren’t able to avoid elimination for a second straight day, losing 7-2.

Catcher Cory Brownsten went 1 for 3 in the game, hitting the team’s only home run of the tournament.

Brownsten and Smith earned spots on the All-Tournament team with their impressive performances.

“Cory and Kevan had an outstanding tournament,” Jordano said. “Both deserved the recognition they received.”

Traveling back to Pittsburgh, the Panthers’ fate for the rest of the postseason was in the hands of the selection committee.

But the committee did not extend a bid to them, denying the Big East of having four teams in the NCAA Tournament.

St. John’s got an automatic bid after winning the conference tournament as the No. 4 seed, whereas Connecticut and Louisville made it as at-large selections. The Panthers were a combined 6-2 against those teams this season.

Despite the disappointing end to the season, it was still a monumental year for the team.

It led the nation in team batting average (.363) and had the most Big East wins in school history with 18.

After achieving such a high level of success this year, Jordano said the team will certainly want even more next season.

“We will begin work immediately to be in contention again next season,” Jordano said.