Baseball: Even with recent struggles Panthers can make tournament

By Jay Huerbin

Despite losing two of three games in Connecticut over the weekend, the Pitt baseball team still… Despite losing two of three games in Connecticut over the weekend, the Pitt baseball team still has a chance to make the Big East tournament.

And that’s good news as the team heads into its final series of the regular season.

“We’re not feeling too much pressure,” pitcher Corey Baker said. “We’re in a good spot because we control our own destiny.”

The Panthers (26-18, 11-12 Big East) currently sit in eighth place in the Big East. The top eight teams advance to the postseason conference tournament.

Heading into their previous series, the Panthers were a half-game ahead of the Huskies (29-22, 12-12 Big East). But inconsistent pitching and an insufficient amount of offense sent the Panthers falling into eighth place. Pitt is now a half-game ahead of ninth-place Cincinnati.

In the first game against Connecticut, the Panthers bounced back from their City Game loss to Duquesne with a 7-4 victory over the Huskies.

Leftfielder John Schultz, who went 3 for 4 with an RBI, and second baseman Chris Sedon led the Panthers offensively. Pitcher Nate Reed also helped. He improved his record to 3-5 behind six and two-third innings of work, giving up four runs on eight hits.

But the second game of the series belonged to the Huskies, as they scattered 14 runs on 16 hits over eight innings. Baker, the team’s leader in wins, lasted three and one-third innings, as his record fell to 6-3.

Despite Sedon’s team-leading 17th home run of the season in the game, the Panthers lost to the Huskies 14-6.

The pitching struggled again in the final game against Connecticut, and the Huskies grabbed a 5-0 lead after the third inning. David Kaye pitched six innings, but recorded the loss and saw his record fall to 3-3 this season. Shortstop Chris Tonte led the offense for the Panthers with three hits and three RBIs, but the team’s comeback fell short.

Still, the Panthers are in control of clinching their first Big East tournament birth since 2007.

Pitt takes on West Virginia (35-14, 16-8 Big East) this Thursday in the first of three games to end the season.

“We still look at it as Pitt-West Virginia,” Baker said about the rivalry. “We go out there thinking this [game] means a little more than the others … We just got to do what we do.”