Softball: Panthers avoid sweep by taking last game of invitiation

By Lauren Kirschman

The Pitt softball team went 1-3 at the Tar Heel Invitational this weekend as Holly Stevens… The Pitt softball team went 1-3 at the Tar Heel Invitational this weekend as Holly Stevens and Kristen Cheesebrew earned all-tournament honors at their second tournament of the year. .

“We had a tough weekend, but both [Cheesebrew] and Holly really stepped up to take the lead,” Pitt head coach Holly Aprile said. “Holly has come to the plate in a number of crucial situations offensively, and she just gets it done.”

In the Panthers’ (3-6) final game of the invitational, Stevens went 4-for-4 at the plate, tallying five RBIs and three runs in Pitt’s 14-1 victory over Fairfield.

It was the first time a Panther drove in five runs since Lisa McGregor racked up five RBIs against Villanova in 2006.

Stevens, a freshman catcher, took over for departed senior Sam Card. Card led the team with 28 RBIs last season and batted .277.

Aprile said that “losing a seasoned, full-time veteran” is difficult, but Stevens has shown great promise in filling the role.

“She has a great deal of responsibility on her shoulders, but she is a fast learner and a tough individual,” Aprile said. “[Those are] qualities that are very useful in the catching position.”

Cheesebrew, who went 2-for-3 with three runs in the game, batted .538 over the weekend. At the end of the invitational, she totaled five runs, a stolen base and an RBI.

“At the plate, she has remarkably good bat control and a hard-nosed attitude,” Aprile said. “When determination and hard work meet up with talent, you see the results in a player like Kristen Cheesebrew.”

Aprile said that Cheesebrew is also solid defensively, capable of handling both the routine and dynamic plays in the field.

The team dropped its first three games of the tournament. The first defeat was a 5-4 loss to Fairfield in extra innings, despite Cheesebrew’s first home run of the year.

The Panthers scored first in the game, off Cheesebrew’s homerun and Steven’s RBI that drove in Reba Tutt. Fairfield tied the game in the fifth inning, and then both teams scored in the seventh and eighth innings. That left the score tied at four until the Stags scored the winning run off a wild pitch.

Cory Berliner started the game on the mound, giving up nine hits and nine runs in six innings.

Pitt’s next loss came at the hands of No. 23 North Carolina. The game was the Panthers’ first shutout of the season as they fell 8-0 to the Tar Heels.

Alyssa O’Connell performed well in Pitt’s 3-0 loss to James Madison. She pitched six innings, allowing six hits and three runs. However, the Panthers were unable to answer at the plate.

Pitt had its opportunities to score. Krista Rodgers reached third in the first inning but was stranded. In the fifth inning, Rodgers and Cheesebrew hit consecutive singles but were left stranded.

O’Connell gave up three hits and struck out six.

Berliner pitched all five innings of Pitt’s victory over Fairfield. She allowed one run and three hits.

“The pitcher’s job is to keep the game in striking distance for the offense and for the most part, we have done that,” Aprile said.

However, she added that she would like to see the Panther pitchers cut down on walks. In Pitt’s four games in the invitational, Panther pitchers issued a total of 12 walks.

Overall, Aprile said she thought the team did a good job of battling back when they fell behind, but she said their offense still needs work.

“We need to continue to improve on offense with both our execution and our ability to put the ball in play,” Aprile said. “Situational hitting is a huge key for us.”

Next, the Panthers travel to Morehead, Ky., for the Morehead State Invitational March 6-7. Pitt will face Morehead State, Oakland and Indiana University-Purdue University.

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