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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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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Pitt baseball’s midseason misfortunes ruin promising season

Redshirt+sophomore+pitcher+Phil+Fox+%2828%29+pitches+during+a+game+against+UVA+at+Cost+Field+on+March+25.%0A
Courtesy of Nate Yonamine
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Phil Fox (28) pitches during a game against UVA at Cost Field on March 25.

Despite a hot start and hot finish, brutal stretches in the middle of the season mount to yet another year of disappointment for Pitt baseball under head coach Mike Bell.

Hot bats forge a hot start

In the 2024 season, the Panthers came out of the starting gate on fire with an 8-1 record, which included three victories over Power Five opponents.

In Pitt’s first nine games, the offense was practically unstoppable. The Panthers’ bats tallied 95 runs in their first nine games, including two games against Oklahoma and California where the offense put up 19 runs in each game.

The Panthers’ 95 runs in their first nine games were the best offensive start in Bell’s tenure as head coach. The Panthers’ only comparable offensive production was in the 2023 season when they tallied 82 runs through the first nine games.

However, there were drastic differences between the two seasons. In 2023, Pitt had a brutal start to the season with multiple losses to mid-majors and a woeful 5-4 record. In 2024, the Panthers had their best start since the 2020 season that was canceled due to COVID-19, when Pitt also began the year with an 8-1 record.

Midseason woes

Once the majority of the non-conference schedule finished and ACC play started for the Panthers, the hot start went cold. In Pitt’s first nine ACC games, the Panthers had a record of 1-8. No. 16 North Carolina and No. 14 Virginia swept Pitt, and the Panthers only won one game at home against Boston College.

Pitt’s bats lost their pop in these nine games, only tallying 43 runs, but the offense wasn’t the issue. The Panthers’ pitching allowed 71 runs in these three series, including in the Virginia series, where the Cavaliers blasted 36 total runs against Pitt.

The luck wasn’t quick to turn around for the Panthers either. Pitt continued to struggle in ACC play, losing its next five in-conference series.

In these 15 games, the Panthers’ pitching continued to have bad outings. Pitt only had four games where it allowed four or fewer runs. The Panthers won three out of the four when they held their opponent’s offense to less than five runs.

On the positive side, the Panthers won at least one game in each of the five series. Still, those victories weren’t enough for Pitt to put itself in a position to earn a bid to the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It didn’t get much better for the Panthers in midseason non-conference play. Pitt went 0-3 against rivals Penn State and West Virginia and was outscored by 22 runs.

Battle for a plane ticket to Charlotte

After the Panthers’ trip to Notre Dame, things started to turn around. Pitt run-ruled both Youngstown State and Wright State, outscoring the teams by 40 runs in 14 innings of baseball. 

This domination gave Pitt momentum heading into its two final ACC series of the season. The Panthers had their work cut out for them. Pitt had to face No. 8 Florida State at home, then travel to Coral Gables, Florida, for a series against Miami. The Panthers needed to come away with at least four wins to earn a bid to the ACC Tournament. 

The Panthers earning four wins in six games seemed unlikely given that Pitt had not won an ACC series all season long.

Against all odds, the Panthers made it happen. The Panthers took two from the Seminoles and two from the Hurricanes in gritty victories.

The Panthers beat the Seminoles 1-0 in the first game of the three-game series with two outstanding appearances from Pitt pitchers. Junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Andrade pitched seven scoreless innings, only allowing six Seminole baserunners and striking out eight batters. Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Phil Fox was dominant in relief, striking out four Florida State batters while not allowing any baserunners in his two innings.

In the three other crucial victories, the Panthers’ bats totaled 24 runs and were aided by an impressive outing from right-handed pitcher Jack Sokol, who allowed one run in six innings of a game Pitt couldn’t afford to lose. 

The Panthers’ offense getting hot at the end of the season and a few gems from right-handed pitchers earned Pitt the last spot in the ACC Tournament. 

To add to the late-season success, the Panthers got revenge on in-state rival Penn State by run-ruling the Nittany Lions at home in eight innings, winning 10-0.

No luck in Charlotte

The Panthers froze up once they arrived in Charlotte for the ACC Tournament.

The Panthers only scored three runs in their 18 innings of ACC Tournament baseball and allowed 20, equalling more than one run per inning. 

Future outlook

Pitt needs pitching next season if the team wants to see some success in the ACC. A team ERA higher than five makes success unlikely. Pitt was even worse than that in 2024. The Panthers finished with a 6.19 ERA.

The Pitt offense was on the other side of the spectrum and impressed. Pitt had a team batting average of .282 and scored 6.94 runs per game, which are both the best of Bell’s career as head coach at Pitt, besides the shortened 2020 season. 

If Bell stays at the mantle in the 2025 season, he will need to vastly improve Pitt’s pitching and keep the hitting at the current pace. If not, the Panthers will have another disappointing season playing baseball in the ACC.

 

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer