Pitt drops two of three in season opener

By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

Pitt’s pent-up energy to start its 2015 baseball season quickly fizzled out during its opening weekend.

After an offensive outburst to begin the weekend, Pitt baseball was shut out in its last two games at the Snowbirds Classic in Florida.

The Panthers opened their season on Friday with an 18-1 win over St. Louis. T.J. Zeuch pitched six strong innings, giving up only one run and striking out nine.

Based on last season’s performance, Pitt may have expected Zeuch to lead the rotation this year as well. He certainly played like it to earn his first win of the year. The sophomore led the Panthers in ERA last season and could be the anchor of the rotation as early as this season.

But Zeuch wasn’t the only star on Friday. Pitt’s 18 runs were the most it’s scored in a game since April 9, 2013, when it hung 24 runs on Youngstown State.

Senior infielder Jordan Frabasilio led the way with a home run, two RBIs and three runs scored. Junior infielder Ron Sherman also contributed with four RBIs and a triple.  

The team also displayed great patience at the plate, drawing 14 walks to go with just as many hits.

The offensive outburst was encouraging for the Panthers, but it would be the only excitement of the weekend for a team trying to figure out its own identity with so many new players in the fold.

Pitt then faced Kansas State on Saturday. Though both teams finished with six hits, the Panthers couldn’t convert with runners in scoring position, leading to the run differential in the 7-0 scoreline.

Pitt’s pitchers wouldn’t have as much success as the previous outing, as junior Marc Berube gave up three runs over just as many innings in his first career start, all of which came in the third inning.

The teams were scoreless through the first two innings, but the Wildcats broke through in the third after sophomore outfielder Jacob Wright misplayed a ball in the outfield with the bases loaded. The error allowed Kansas State to score the first three runs of the game, and the Wildcats wouldn’t look back, winning 7-0 and taming the Panthers in the process.

The silver lining in a disappointing outing may be the play of sophomore Matt Pidich, who allowed just one hit and struck out six over 3.2 innings in relief of Berube. After losing several pitchers to graduation and the MLB draft, Pitt will need all the help it can get out of the bullpen this season.

Sunday’s game against Ohio State was more of the same for Pitt, suffering another scoreless outing in a 8-0 loss to Ohio State.

The Panthers struggled on defense once again, committing four errors on the afternoon.  

Junior starting pitcher Aaron Schnurbusch gave up three runs in just under four innings. While the score sheet indicates he gave up six, only three of those were earned due to Pitt’s defensive inefficiencies.

Wright led the way for Pitt offensively with two hits as the leadoff hitter. Unfortunately for him and the Panthers, the rest of the lineup was inept at the plate, registering only six hits on the day.

Failing to score in two straight games has to be concerning for Pitt head coach Joe Jordano and company, as he may have expected to be a strength for this team with many returning bats.

While it is possible they ran into two hot pitchers at the wrong time, they will need a significant improvement from senior outfielder Boo Vazquez along with the rest of the lineup going into the USC-Upstate/Wofford Tournament in South Carolina, which begins next Friday.