Baseball: Panthers go 1-1 during the week and host No. 7 Louisville this weekend

By Donnie Tasser

The Pitt baseball team registered its 20th win on the season against Akron a day before… The Pitt baseball team registered its 20th win on the season against Akron a day before giving up 19 runs in a losing effort to Kent State earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Pitt won a tight 5-4 game on the road against the Zips despite resting several starters.

“It is a long season, and we needed to get some players a little rest and get others some playing time,” head coach Joe Jordano said. “I think we had four or five freshmen play overall and had a chance to just DH [Joe] Leonard and rest [Danny] Lopez and [Travis] Whitmore.”

The Panthers (20-7, 4-2 Big East) loaded the bases in the first when left fielder John Schultz reached on an error, Leonard singled and first baseman David Chester walked. Catcher Kevan Smith grounded into a double play, ending a potential big inning.

Pitt threatened again in the third with two runners in scoring position and only one out, but Chester popped out and Smith grounded out to end the inning.

Akron struck first with a two-run homerun by designated hitter Kyle Hallett, his third of the season. The homer came off Pitt starter Alex Caravella, who went 5.2 innings and gave up three runs on six hits.

The Panthers quickly answered with three runs in the sixth inning. Pitt loaded the bases with no outs when Leonard reached on an error, Chester walked and Smith singled. Second baseman Philip Konieczny then hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Leonard. Two batters later, Manny Pahoulis singled home Chester and Smith to put Pitt up 3-2.

Akron re-took the lead in the bottom of the sixth when Hallett drove in a run with a double, and later scored on a passed ball.

The lead changed once again in the seventh, when Chester hit a sacrifice fly to score center fielder Zach Duggan, who lead off the inning with a single, and Smith singled home Schultz, who reached on a walk.

The Zips put runners in scoring position in each of the last three innings, but couldn’t score off the trio of J.R. Leonardi, Corey Baker and Leonard, each of whom pitched an inning. Leonardi registered the win to up his record to 2-2 and give Leonardi the save, his fourth of the season.

On Wednesday, the Panthers traveled to Kent State to take on the Golden Flashes. Kent State scored early and often on its way to a 19-6 rout.

“Our starter did not perform very well, and we do not have any options,” Jordano said. “With a conference weekend in front of us, we just can’t afford to use weekend arms during the week unless it is a programmed one-inning type of thing with a very specific pitch count. In addition, Kent is a very solid team and swung the bats very well today. Give them credit.”

Pitt opened up the scoring in the top of the first, when second baseman Whitmore singled home Schultz, who had previously doubled. That was Pitt’s last lead of the game.

Kent State scored 14 runs over the first two innings, including a grand slam in the first by first baseman Kyle McMillen, a grand slam in the second by third baseman Travis Shaw and four other homeruns, including a second by McMillen.

In the fourth, center fielder Duggan plated catcher Cory Brownsten with a single. Several batters later, Schultz came up to bat with the bases loaded and came through with a double, driving in all three runners. Chester later hit a sacrifice fly to bring Schultz home.

Kent State answered with five runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning, putting the game out of reach and ending the scoring for either team. Starter Kevin Dooley registered the loss for Pitt, which drops his record to 1-2.

“We played solid in both games,” said Jordano. “We were just short pitching today. We had a solid game against a very good Akron team, and today we scored six runs, had 10 hits and played error free. We just did not have a very strong performance from our pitching staff.”

Starting today, the Panthers will host the No. 7-ranked Louisville Cardinals at Trees Field for a three-game series. The game times are set for 3 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and noon on Sunday. Louisville is 24-4 overall and 5-1 in Big East play.

“We will be prepared this weekend as we do each conference weekend,” Jordano said. “We are who we are and we will play each game hard, and we will let the results play out. We look forward to the challenge of competing against a team in the top 10.”

Leave a comment.