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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Kamalani Akeo talks with members of the womens volleyball coaching staff in 2021.
Kamalani Akeo: An unsung hero contributing to the success of Pitt volleyball
By Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer • 10:10 am

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Kamalani Akeo talks with members of the womens volleyball coaching staff in 2021.
Kamalani Akeo: An unsung hero contributing to the success of Pitt volleyball
By Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer • 10:10 am

Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas

Pitt+baseball+players+stand+in+the+dugout+during+a+game+against+Virginia+Tech+on+March+24+at+the+Petersen+Sports+Complex.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.

Pitt baseball (5-1, 0-0 ACC) left Corpus Christi, Texas, this weekend with three huge early season wins. The Panthers defeated Washington in dramatic fashion on Friday night before losing to the defending Big Ten champions, Maryland, on Saturday. The Panthers finished their successful road trip, defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi twice on their home field. In an action-packed weekend for the Panthers, here are my critical takeaways from the Kleberg Bank College Classic.

Luke Cantwell is the real deal

Pitt’s bats are hot to start the 2024 campaign. But, one new addition to the squad has separated himself as one of the biggest threats in the Panthers lineup. In his first six games as a Panther, junior first baseman Luke Cantwell has excelled at the plate. Cantwell is slashing a .357 batting average, a .571 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage — which is good for a 1.071 OPS on the season. 

With only 28 total at-bats on the season, Cantwell has come up big in huge situations, knocking in two home runs and a team-leading nine runs batted in over the past two weekends. While Pitt’s season is still young, look for Cantwell to continue his great production and play a vital role for the Panthers going forward in ACC play. 

The future is now for Ryan Zuckerman

In a college baseball landscape that is seeing pitchers across the nation get progressively better, the adjustments for a higher level of play for younger hitters are always tricky. However, adjustments for Panthers’ first-year third baseman Ryan Zuckerman were minimal. 

The Yardley, Pennsylvania, native shone on Friday against a strong Huskies team. In the third inning, Zuckerman scored the first run of the game with a solo blast over the right field fence, pushing the Panthers up 1-0. 

After a back-and-forth game, the Panthers entered the bottom of the ninth in a tie-ball game. In one of the biggest moments of the early season, the 18-year-old Zuckerman stepped into the box for Pitt. In a 1-1 count, Zuckerman located an off-speed pitch, drilling it over the left field wall for the game-winning run. 

Zuckerman currently leads the Panthers in slugging percentage with a .652 line while adding a team-leading three home runs. As the season progresses, Zuckerman’s power in the back end of the Panthers’ lineup could prove crucial against highly competitive conference opponents.

The Panthers will have major tests going forward

With the Panthers starting the season off on fire at 6-1, optimism for the 2024 season is through the roof in Oakland this spring. While the Panthers have collectively shown resilience in big moments thus far, the level of competition for Pitt will increase heavily over the next two weeks. 

So far this season, the Panthers have given up 34 runs while scoring 56 of their own, giving them an impressive plus-22 run differential. Junior pitcher Ethan Firoved, in two appearances so far this season, has emerged as a lights-out option for the Panthers. Firoved has excelled at the mound this season in eight innings of work, bolstering a 0.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts. 

Senior right-hander Matthew Fernandez has also made his presence known as a dependable option for head Coach Mike Bell’s club, allowing only three runs in eight innings on the rubber.

With a huge weekend series approaching, the Panthers must lean on both sides of the ball to compete with multiple Power Five opponents. As a collective, the Panthers’ pitchers have impressed in big moments but struggled against an explosive Maryland lineup. With a current team ERA of 4.65 and an opponent batting average of .268, the Panthers have showcased their ability on the mound but have allowed teams to stay in games late. Avoiding late-inning allowed runs has emerged as one of the Panthers’ pivotal keys going forward and can dictate the direction of the young season. 

The Panthers return to action this weekend as they head to Las Vegas, Nevada, for a three-game weekend series against Oklahoma, Ohio State and Cal. The first game starts on Friday at 2 p.m. Eastern.

About the Contributor
Dylan Grace, Staff Writer