The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

Pitt baseball gears up for battle at the plate in Backyard Brawl

Senior+catcher+Justin+Fogel+%2813%29+walks+into+the+batter%E2%80%99s+box+during+the+baseball+game+against+Duke+on+Sunday+afternoon+at+Charles+L.+Cost+Field.
Amber Farabaugh | Staff Photographer
Senior catcher Justin Fogel (13) walks into the batter’s box during the baseball game against Duke on Sunday afternoon at Charles L. Cost Field.

Pitt baseball (14-18, 4-14 ACC) travels to Morgantown this Tuesday for another Backyard Brawl against No. 22 West Virginia (22-13, 11-4 BIG-12). To succeed, the Panthers need to perform well at bat and break down the Mountaineers’ tough defense. 

The Panthers’ batting performance this past Sunday against Duke is exactly what they must emulate for the Brawl this week. Despite losing the series, Pitt’s offense led to a much-needed ACC win in the final game. After suffering losses on Saturday, the Panthers came back in the eighth inning on Sunday to beat the No. 7 Blue Devils. The game marked their highest-ranked win since they beat No. 7 Virginia last season

Pitt’s entire lineup got a hit on Sunday, and Pitt recorded four home runs against Duke, tying the most they’ve hit in a single season. Senior outfielder Dom Popa, with a season batting average of .320, earned three hits that afternoon and recorded one run. Junior infielder Luke Cantwell went 2-for-3 on Sunday, one of which was a home run, and has a season average of .306

Although Pitt baseball is currently ranked last in the ACC, head coach Mike Bell is confident in his team’s ability to perform in future games. 

“Our players’ toughness and togetherness is undeniable,” Bell said. “What they go through here day in and out, the weather, the travel and competing in one of the toughest conferences in the country. It takes a special individual to really succeed at this place.”

Toughness is exactly what the Panthers will need in their game against West Virginia on Tuesday night. This matchup marks their 48th meeting in history and their first of the season. Overall, the Mountaineers hold a 27-20 edge over the Panthers, and West Virginia won the last five games it played against Pitt. 

The last time out, the Panthers fell to the Mountaineers 9-8. In the matchup, Pitt took an early lead after junior catcher Jayden Melendez cranked a home run over the left field wall at the bottom of the first inning. After the first, Pitt was up 2-0. The Mountaineers responded and shut down the Panthers in the second. As a result, Pitt never regained its early lead. 

West Virginia put up six in the second inning, featuring current junior infielder J.J. Wetherholt’s home run. Among several of his accolades in his 2023 campaign, he was picked Big 12 Player of the Year and led the nation with a .449 batting average. Wetherholt is also the projected No. 1 pick in the upcoming MLB draft.

Pitt clawed its way back in the fifth inning and showcased the tenacity Bell commended his team for. But the Panthers trailed 9-8 in the last two frames and ultimately couldn’t come back. 

In the current season, West Virginia’s series against UCF this weekend made the team No. 1 in Big-12. That game featured some impressive players the Panthers need to look out for and shows that Pitt’s batting is crucial to their success.

Senior left-handed pitcher Derek Clark is one adversary to look out for, with a 2.15 ERA. Clark pitched all nine innings against UCF and struck out a season-high 10 batters. As a team, West Virginia earned 341 strikeouts this season compared to Pitt’s 273.

While the Panthers’ pitching is subpar, Pitt holds a slight advantage on offense. Pitt’s team average at bat is .279, while the Mountaineers’ is .273. While neither team excels in this category, if the Panthers’ batting in their matchup against Duke last Sunday indicates their performance in the Backyard Brawl, then Pitt can out-hit West Virginia. 

Ultimately, this matchup is a battle at the plate. But the Mountaineers’ defense will be tough to overcome. The fate of the Backyard Brawl rests on the Panthers’ ability to step up and show out on offense. 

The Brawl kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at Wegener Stadium and will air on ESPN+.

 

About the Contributor
Sara Meyer, Staff Writer
Sara Meyer is a staff writer for the sports desk at The Pitt News. She is a part of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences class of 2026 and is double majoring in LCJS and politics and philosophy with a minor in economics. This is her second year writing for the sports desk as a staff writer.