Softball: Pitt looks for momentum, travels for weekend series at Boston College

In a matter of just a couple hours, Pitt’s softball team’s win streak ended and a potential new one began.

The team had its three-game winning stretch snapped on Tuesday when the Panthers faced Robert Morris in a doubleheader, dropping the first game before bouncing back and winning the second. It now looks to start another winning streak as it enters the final month of its schedule.

Maybe that chance to get back to winning was why junior first baseman Carly Thea was anxious to return to the field after the first game.

“I like playing doubleheaders, I just wish the break between was a little shorter,” Thea said after the win on Tuesday. “I don’t necessarily think it has to be 30 minutes [between games]. I think a 10-minute break is just fine. Let’s just keep going. We’re already in it, let’s go.”

Thea and the rest of the Panthers (12-15, 3-5 ACC) have to wait a bit longer before their next games. 

Pitt travels this weekend to Chestnut Hill, Mass., to play a three-game series against ACC-opponent Boston College, beginning with a doubleheader Saturday. The first game is set for a 1 p.m. start, followed by a 3 p.m. start for game two. First pitch for Sunday’s affair is slated for noon.

In their first season, the Panthers are set to make the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. First, though, they will have to hold off the ninth-place Eagles (15-15, 2-7 ACC), ranked just one spot behind Pitt in the ACC standings. 

Boston College has played in every ACC tournament since it moved from the Big East to the ACC in 2006, but with the current rankings, the Eagles are poised to miss out, since only the top eight teams make the tournament.

This weekend’s road games will be a test for the Panthers, as it is only their second conference series on the road. Road wins have been difficult to come by, as the team is 2-7 away from Vartabedian Field. Pitt’s only other ACC road series was against Virginia, and they were swept in three games. Boston College, on the other hand, is returning home mired in a five-game losing streak.

Junior pitcher Savannah King will most likely pitch at least one of the games this weekend. King leads the team in appearances with 23 and has started 18 of the Panthers’ games. On Tuesday, King (7-11, 3.92 ERA) rebounded from game one to game two.

King started game one against Robert Morris but, after giving up four straight hits and allowing two runs to score without recording an out, was pulled in favor of junior pitcher Alexa Larkin. Game two was a different story. King recovered and pitched a complete game — her tenth of the season. On top of striking out one batter, King surrendered one run on three hits in the mercy-rule-shortened five-inning game.

“It was my mentality, I knew I needed to do something different,” she said Tuesday. “I needed to show them I was going to dominate.”

King wasn’t the only part of the team that caught fire in the second game.

Since having the opportunity to play games with the weather cooperating, the Panthers’ bats have been hot. Pitt has hit at least one home run in its last six games, including seven in its last ACC series against Virginia.

Thea and redshirt sophomore infielder Maggie Sevilla have been on fire in that stretch.

Thea, currently hitting .361, leads the team in batting average, boosted by a 3-for-5 Tuesday against the Colonials. She added three RBIs and three runs in the doubleheader.

Sevilla, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, helped lead Pitt to a 3-1 record on the week by hitting .571 at the plate with three home runs, nine RBIs and six runs. She’s clubbed home runs in three consecutive games.

With this hot hitting, Sevilla has brought her batting average up to .308 and boasts a team-high seven home runs this season. Sevilla also leads the team in RBIs and runs scored. Her hot streak looks to continue against the Eagles, as she is batting .542 against ACC teams.

Boston College has their own hot hitters, as well. The top two players with the highest batting averages can be found in the outfield. At the plate, senior Tory Speer has hit .333 with a team-leading six home runs. Sophomore Megan Cooley leads the Eagles with a batting average of .418, which ranks her second overall in the ACC. Her 38 hits rank her fifth in ACC standings, as well.

Another batter that the Panthers will need to watch out for is freshman catcher/third baseman Tatiana Cortez, who is second in ACC standings with nine home runs and fourth with 30 RBIs.

Pitcher Nicole D’Argento has pitched the fifth-most innings in the conference. Through 114.2 innings, D’Argento is 9-9 with a 2.89 ERA and nine complete games. The graduate student has struck out 110 batters but has allowed 156 to reach base.

Just a few days removed from being stifled by another tough pitcher in Nicole Sleith of Robert Morris, Pitt proved it can bounce back. That persistence, Thea said, is what stood out most after the series split against Robert Morris.

“Just the fact that we were able to make that change shows exactly who were are as a team,” Thea said. “Even if we lose a game here and there, we’ll come back and we’ll fight.”