Baseball: Pitt ends winning streak at 11, drop two at Rutgers

By Mike Furlong

The Pitt baseball team ended its record-setting winning streak by losing to Rutgers last… The Pitt baseball team ended its record-setting winning streak by losing to Rutgers last weekend.

Pitt (19-6, 4-2 Big East) lost two in the three-game series against the Scarlet Knights (14-11, 5-1 Big East).

The Panthers lost the first game 9-8. Junior Corey Baker started for the Panthers, recording a no-decision, after pitching seven innings and giving up four runs, on 12 hits, while striking out three.

The Panthers went ahead in the top of the fourth inning on a two-run homerun by junior first baseman David Chester. Scoring on the play was junior left fielder John Schultz.

Rutgers battled back, tying the score in the bottom half of the fourth on two leadoff singles, a sacrifice bunt and a two-run single by Russ Hopkins to center field.

Pitt took the lead back in the fifth, on a two-out single by senior shortstop Danny Lopez, bringing junior right fielder Sean Toole home to bring the score to 3-2.

The Panthers extended the lead to 5-2 in the top of the sixth. After a leadoff single by junior third baseman Joe Leonard, Chester homered for a second time on the day, taking the pitch out over the wall in left-center.

“[Chester] took a great offensive approach all weekend,” head coach Joe Jordano said. “Both of his homeruns would have been out of any park in the country. He crushed both.”

Pitt extended the lead once again in the top of the seventh, scoring three more runs, making the score 8-2. These runs came from RBIs from Leonard, redshirt junior catcher Kevan Smith and junior second baseman Travis Whitmore.

In the bottom of the inning, Rutgers cut the Panthers’ lead to 8-4, after loading the bases with no outs. Baker was able to get out of the inning after Rutgers scored two runs on an RBI double play and a double to left field.

Pitt went to the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth, when Baker loaded the bases with no outs. The Panthers turned to redshirt freshman, Ray Black. Black was able to get out of the inning unscathed, after recording three straight outs, including a strikeout.

In the bottom of the ninth, Rutgers loaded the bases again, this time with one out.

Pitt turned to redshirt freshman J.R. Leonardi to close out the ninth. After consecutive singles, the score was cut to 8-7.

With two outs and runners on second and third, Lopez fielded a ground ball, but the throw was off and Rutgers scored the winning run.

“It was very difficult. We played fairly well for 8.1 innings, and we just did not close it out,” Jordano said after the game. “Give credit to Rutgers, though. They got timely hits and made the plays. It was an emotional loss, tough to swallow.”

The loss ended Pitt’s record winning streak at 11.

In game two, Pitt was unable to battle back from the previous day’s tough loss, losing 6-1. Taking the loss for the Panthers was sophomore Matt Iannazzo, who gave up five runs (three earned) over six and one-third innings.

“We simply did not play well in game two. Matt Iannazzo pitched well enough to win, and he kept us in the game. We were just off at the plate,” Jordano said.

In game three, the Panthers were able to salvage a win in the series, on a rally in the top of the ninth inning.

“[It was a] huge win for us, we could have packed it in when we went down 3-1, then went down again 5-4. But we kept fighting and came through at the end,” Jordano said.

“Nate Hood pitched a phenomenal game for us, and J.R. Leonardi was as good in relief,” he said.

Down 3-0 in the top of the third inning, the Panthers narrowed the margin to two runs, on singles by redshirt junior center fielder Zach Duggan and by Schultz. Duggan scored on an RBI groundout by Leonard.

The Panthers were able to tie the score at 3-3 in the top of the fifth inning. After leadoff singles by Lopez and Schultz, Chester hit a single to send Lopez home. Schultz was able to reach home on a wild pitch.

In the top of the seventh, the Panthers took their first lead of the game at 4-3, on an RBI single by Smith, scoring Lopez.

After Rutgers regained the lead with two runs of its own in the bottom of the inning, the Panthers tied the game again in the eighth at 5-5.

After a walk and stolen base by Duggan, Lopez connected with a two-out double, scoring Duggan.

In the top of the ninth, the Panthers were able to finish the comeback. A leadoff single by Leonard and two errors by the Rutgers infield allowed Pitt to score pinch runner Evan Oswald.

With the lead at 6-5, Pitt was able to close out the game with three consecutive outs, recorded by Leonardi.

The Panthers will play at Akron and Kent State during the week before an important series at home against Louisville, the defending Big East champions.