Pitt loses 3 straight to South Florida

By Sergei Feldman

Riding a four-game unbeaten streak, the Pitt baseball team hoped to bring some of its own… Riding a four-game unbeaten streak, the Pitt baseball team hoped to bring some of its own heat to Florida for a three-game Big East conference clash against South Florida.

Instead, Pitt left with chills, as the Bulls prevailed with a series sweep.

Entering the weekend, the Panthers (17-10, 4-5 Big East) centered around offensive explosions, having knocked in 52 runs in the previous four games.

But in the first game against South Florida, Pitt’s offense struggled, scoring just one run in an 8-1 defeat.

In sports, one team’s failure is often the result of an opponent’s strong play. Pitt coach Joe Jordano saw that firsthand over the weekend.

‘On Friday, we ran into a pitcher [sophomore Randy Fontanez] who was outstanding,’ said Jordano. ‘We really were not in the game. He was very good.’

Fontanez held Pitt to just eight hits and struck out six, while pitching a complete game for the Bulls (19-10, 7-2).

South Florida’s scoring came in bunches. A three-run second inning and four-run seventh sealed the game and snapped Pitt’s impressive winning streak.

In an effort to bounce back in the second game, Pitt played stronger. Unfortunately for the Panthers, so did South Florida, as the Bulls finished with a 13-5 victory.

The Bulls were consistent throughout the second game and scored runs in all but two innings of the second game.

That kind of performance makes it hard for any opponent to carry momentum into the next inning, and such was the case for Pitt.

Early in the game things were close, but South Florida’s offense was more than Pitt could handle. After clawing to a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third inning, the Panthers allowed 10 runs in the ensuing four innings.

Senior catcher Morgan Kielty and sophomore infielder Joe Leonard were Pitt’s bright spots, combining for five of the team’s seven hits.

Sunday became Pitt’s chance to salvage the weekend and move forward on a winning note, and at one point that hope seemed an inevitable reality.

But then South Florida walked off with a series sweep. Literally.

In the bottom of the 10th inning, South Florida’s Jonathan Koscso belted a walk-off home run to end the game in dramatic style.

Pitt knocked in a stunning five runs in the top of the ninth to put itself in position to steal a victory and save face on a disappointing weekend. But South Florida took advantage of its turn at bat and tied the game at 8-8 after a two-run home run.

Jordano’s disappointment was justified.

‘Each weekend, in conference, we want to win the series,’ he said. ‘That was our goal this weekend, but after losing the first two, we really needed to win Sunday. It was a tough one to swallow.’

Pitt fell under .500 in Big East play and lost the momentum it created for itself lately.

Still, Jordano is optimistic that the team can get back on track.

‘It is a long season,’ he said. ‘We need to just do the things we have been doing and keep working hard. I expect our team to respond very well.’

The Panthers, whose non-conference matchup against Penn State was postponed on Monday, will head to Louisville for a three-game series against the Cardinals this weekend.