Baseball: Panther win two on way to Big East tournament

By Adam Littman

The Pitt baseball team needed to win two of its last three games against rival West Virginia to… The Pitt baseball team needed to win two of its last three games against rival West Virginia to earn a spot in the Big East tournament. The Panthers wasted no time over the weekend, taking the first two from the Mountaineers before dropping the third.

West Virginia (36-16, 17-10) entered the weekend hitting a Big East-best .361, which was fourth in the nation, but the Panthers dominated the first two games on the offensive end. Pitt won by a combined score of 22-13.

“We faced every one of their top pitchers and scored on each of them,” Pitt coach Joe Jordano said.

Pitt belted a combined seven home runs in the first two games, including three by junior Chris Sedon. Earlier this week, Sedon was named a member of the All-Big East first team, making him the first Panther since Jim Negrych in 2006 to earn the honor. Sedon led the team in batting average (.404), home runs (20), RBIs (58), hits (78) and runs (62).

West Virginia dominated the third game of the weekend, avoiding the sweep with a 16-4 shellacking of the Panthers. Even with the loss, Pitt clinched a No. 7 seed in the tournament.

It’s the Panthers’ first appearance in the tournament since 2007, when they lost in the first round, 2-1, to South Florida. This year, the Panthers again face South Florida in the first round.

Not only did the Bulls (32-23, 18-9) finish second in the conference and beat the Panthers all three times the two teams played this year, but the tournament is also in Florida.

“It was one of our goals to make it to the Big East tournament,” Jordano said. “We’re excited to go down there and try to win a few ballgames.”

Pitt opened the Big East tournament yesterday night. Make sure to check out to see how they did.

Pitt 9, West Virginia 1

The Panthers began the series with strong performances by both the offense and defense. While Pitt hit five homers, starting pitcher Nate Reed threw a complete game and gave up only one run.

“[Nate] commanded his off-speed pitches,” Jordano said. “He worked well on the inner half of the plate.”

Reed gave up 10 hits, struck out seven and walked one batter in his nine innings of work. It was his first complete game of the year, and it improved his record to 4-5.

“You just have to keep your pitches down and hope you have your best stuff that day,” Reed said about pitching against West Virginia.

Besides locating his pitches, Reed also kept the Mountaineers to one run with help from his defense.

By the top of the sixth inning, the Panthers led 3-0, a two-out walk to Dan DiBartolomeo loaded the bases. Tobias Streich then hit a ground ball up the middle, but Sedon dove to his right, rolled over, stood up and, with his momentum carrying him toward center field, flung the ball to first base to end the threat.

Reed said he didn’t think Sedon would get to the ball when it was first hit, but Jordano disagreed.

“With it being that low to the ground, I knew he had a chance,” Jordano said. “I don’t care what level you’re at, that’s a web gem.”

Sedon also helped out the win on offense. He went 2-4 with two home runs, three RBIs and two runs scored. Chris Tonte also hit two homers and scored three runs. John Shultz hit his fifth home run for Pitt.

Pitt 13, West Virginia 12

It seemed like for a second consecutive game the Panthers would cruise to a win, as they led 11-4 after five innings. But West Virginia mounted a comeback, scoring five runs in the seventh inning to tie the game.

The Panthers took another one-run lead in the eighth inning after Morgan Kielty doubled in Kevan Smith. Pitt brought in senior Ricky Breymier to try to end the game, but West Virginia tallied another run to tie the game.

Zach Duggan led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. After a walk, a sac bunt and intentional walk, the bases were loaded for Leonard. He ripped the second pitch off the bat into center field for a game-winning single that clinched a spot for the team in the Big East tournament.

“It was a curveball over the plate,” Leonard said. “I really wasn’t thinking about [where to hit it], just trying to hit the ball hard.”

West Virginia 16, Pitt 4

The Panthers scored the first two runs of the game, but then gave up 16 unanswered ones. The onslaught was limited to three runs in the fourth, six runs in the fifth and seven runs in the sixth.

The runs were given up by starter David Kaye, Kevin Dooley and Matt Iannazzo. Ryan Dunford, Cole Taylor and Nathan Hood combined for three scoreless innings to finish the game.

Tonte hit another home run, and Matt Litzinger had three hits on offense.