Baseball: Early miscues prove costly in loss to West Virginia


Starter Sam Mersing pitched seven strong innings on Wednesday.

By Dan Sostek / Staff Writer

The Pitt men’s baseball team scratched and clawed, but when the final out was recorded on a warm and breezy Tuesday evening at Charles L. Cost Field, the Panthers were on the short end of a 6-4 decision against the rival West Virginia Mountaineers.

“Obviously we were disappointed by the outcome today,” Panthers head coach Joe Jordano said. “Our whole focus has been keeping things simple, and we didn’t do that today. And when you’re playing a quality team like West Virginia, those things are gonna come back to bite you.”

The Panthers’ mistakes proved to be costly early, as the Mountaineers (16-8) jumped onto the scoreboard first. 

West Virginia center fielder Bobby Boyd, who led the game off with a line-drive double into right-center field, scored on a wild pitch by Pitt freshman starting pitcher T.J. Zeuch in the top of the first inning. That was the only run to score over two innings, as the Mountaineer’s southpaw starter John Means appeared to have tamed the Panthers, holding them to one hit through the first two frames.

In the bottom of the third inning, Pitt senior center fielder Stephen Vranka reached second after left fielder Jacob Rice lost the ball in the sun. After a Dylan Wolsonovich base hit and a Boo Vazquez walk, the Panthers loaded the bases for All-American right fielder Casey Roche. Roche lined a ball to the right field gap, scoring Vranka and Wolsonovich to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead.

The lead would not last long, though. 

After Rice was hit by a pitch and Shaun Wood knocked a base hit, Matt Johnson made a throwing error on Jackson Kramer’s grounder. Johnson’s error tied the game up at two runs, but then catcher Cameron O’Brien gave the Mountaineers the lead in the following at-bat with an RBI double that scored Wood. After a bunt single by Cody Semler scored Kramer, the lead grew to 4-2.

The Panthers tied the score in the bottom of the fifth inning, when designated hitter Steven Shelinsky and third baseman Jordan Frabasilio tallied back-to-back RBI doubles to knot the score at four.

West Virginia reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, as the Mountaineers roughed up freshman reliever Sam Mersing, scoring two runs off him in the seventh. Jordano yanked Mersing with two outs and the bases loaded in the inning in favor of fifth-year senior Jon Danielczyk, who induced an inning-ending ground out from Bobby Boyd to limit the damage, but the score did not change, and the Panthers had to suffer the loss.

Michael Bennett received the win for the Mountaineers, while Mersing was charged with the loss.

After surrendering four runs — three of them earned in the first four innings — Zeuch settled down, holding the Mountaineers scoreless in the fifth and sixth innings. His six innings pitched marked the longest outing of his career.

Despite seeing some things he would like to fix, Jordano was pleased with his freshman starter.

“He hit a few batters, but he really settled down,” Jordano said. “I thought he competed very well. He did a good job.”

Zeuch, who stands at a towering 6-foot-7, was satisfied with his performance overall, despite feeling that there was something left to be desired.

“Obviously today I didn’t have my best stuff,” he said. “Once I made a mechanical adjustment during the middle of the game, I battled well and started to do the things I needed to do.”

The Panthers’ next home game will take place Friday, when the team takes on the top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers in the first of a three-game ACC series. But, particularly after a loss, the team knows not to overlook its next game, a road matchup against Youngstown State.

“We know we’ve got Youngstown State first,” said Roche, who went 3-5 with two RBI on Tuesday evening. “That’s all that I’m really thinking about now. You can’t take any game easy.”

That matchup against the Penguins will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Youngstown, Ohio, as the Panthers look to improve their record after falling to 15-12 on the year following Tuesday’s loss.