Softball: Panthers’ offense disappears on road trip

The Pitt softball team’s lack of offense doomed it to a doubleheader sweep on Wednesday. 

The Panthers failed to win a game against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., registering a mere four hits in each game of the one-day series, falling 3-2 and then 2-0.

With the pair of victories, the fourth-place Hokies (24-16, 13-6 ACC) have won five straight games, while the Panthers (13-19, 4-9 ACC), who continue to hover around the eighth-place position and final conference playoff spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference, have lost four out of their last five games.

Virginia Tech 3, Pittsburgh 2

The hosts grabbed an early lead in the opener, taking advantage of the Panthers’ only error to plate all of their three runs in the bottom of the first. Alexa Larkin, the starting pitcher for Pitt, lasted only one out in the outing. Larkin (6-6), a junior, surrendered three runs on two hits, two of which she earned, in just one-third of an inning. 

She got the Hokies leadoff batter to fly out to center before an error by Pitt shortstop Carissa Throckmorton allowed the next Virginia Tech player up, second baseman Kylie McGoldrick, to reach base. With a runner now on board, left fielder Vanessa Gonzalez smacked a home run to center to help the Hokies go up 2-0. Two batters later, the Hokies plated what would end up being the final and decisive run of the contest when Katey Smith scored from first on a Dani Anderson double to left center after reaching base on a strike-three passed ball.

The score remained unchanged until the top of the sixth. The bottom of the Panthers’ batting order tried to rally Pitt back into the game, but ultimately fell short. First baseman Kaitlin Manuel began the inning with a bunt single. Three batters later, the Panthers had the bases loaded with only one out. Second baseman Maggie Sevilla hit a ground ball to third that brought home Manuel to slim the deficit to a pair. Center fielder Carly Thea proceeded to score on a passed ball and left fielder Tori Nirschl moved to third, but Pitt failed to bring home the tying run, and the score stayed the same.

Virginia Tech 2, Pittsburgh 0

In the nightcap, the offensive woes continued. Pitt outhit Virginia Tech 4-2 but didn’t manage to plate any runs in the contest. Savannah King (7-13), the junior who served in a relief role in game one, started the second and suffered the loss, despite giving up a mere two hits and two walks while striking out three in four innings of work. 

The only real action that took place in the game came in the bottom of the fifth. The Hokies led off their half of the inning with back-to-back singles. With runners on first and third, a passed ball by Pitt pitcher Larkin, who was pitching in relief this time, gave Virginia Tech their first run. The Hokies followed that with a flyout that brought home the second and final run.

The Panthers never posed a threat in the game, as all four of Pitt’s hits were singles and they struck out seven times. 

Junior center fielder Carly Thea went 2-for-6 in the doubleheader and kept her batting average at 0.397, which currently ranks third best in the ACC.

Pitt returns to action this weekend when they take on new conference member and old Big East foe Syracuse (15-18, 6-7 ACC) in a home series.

First pitch is 1 p.m. on Saturday at Vartabedian Field in the Petersen Sports Complex.