Softball team can’t pull off upset of No. 8 Florida St.


Florida State’s softball team rolled into Vartabedian Field on a chilly Wednesday afternoon bundled up in heavy coats and winter hats. The weather has been indicative of Pitt’s play as of late: cold, having now lost seven games in a row after dropping both games to the visiting Seminoles.

The Panthers knew they faced an uphill battle taking on the eighth-ranked team in the country in a doubleheader, but they were not prepared for Seminole shortstop sensation Maddie O’Brien, who finished with two home runs and seven RBI in the two-game sweep of the Panthers.

Florida State 5, Pitt 2

The Panthers (13-24, 4-14 ACC) were enthusiastic and loud from the start, not backing down from the challenge of facing eighth-ranked Florida State (41-6, 18-3 A CC). Spirits ran high in the home team’s dugout as it kept the pressure on early, having at least one runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings. 

Even Pitt starting pitcher Alexa Larkin dealt a quick six-pitch third inning, continuing the scoreless tie. She was throwing at all areas of the plate, keeping batters guessing and working out of jams.

“We made decent adjustments at the plate, and the pitching staff showed improvement,” said head coach Holly Aprile.

However, O’Brien hit a solo home run in the top of the fourth to jump out to a 1-0 lead, erasing Larkin’s early success. From that point, Florida State’s play started to heat up, and the team didn’t turn back.

At the beginning of the fifth inning, Florida State added another run and grabbed a 2-0 lead. The Panthers responded quickly in the bottom half with a Tori Nirschl single to left field, scoring junior first baseman Carly Thea all the way from first base on a fielding error, making the score 2-1.

Junior pitcher Savannah King came in relief at the start of the sixth inning and was very effective, shutting out the Seminoles by only surrendering one hit until O’Brien belted her second home run of the game and 20th of the year, increasing the Panthers’ deficit to 5-1.

In the end, Pitt was only able to add one more score courtesy of Thea, and the valiant effort ended with Pitt suffering a 5-2 loss.

The Panthers gave Florida State pitcher Lacey Waldrop all she could handle in her complete game victory. Waldrop moved to 27-4 on the season after pitching seven innings of one-run ball. Larkin was pinned with the loss for Pitt, dropping her record to 6-8.

“Even though we were down, we continuously battled through the game,” Larkin said of the first game.

Florida State 10, Pitt 3

The Panthers’ late momentum in Game 1 carried over to the earlier portion of the second contest. That continued effort can be attributed to the words of Aprile after she gathered the team in left field to speak to the team about its loss in Game 1.

“I told them I liked the way we were swinging the bats, and we need to have the same attack mode,” she said.

King started Game 2 of the doubleheader on short rest by escaping the top of the first after Florida State loaded the bases. 

In the bottom frame, Thea and Nirschl were both stranded in scoring position, one of many missed opportunities for Pitt to claim a lead in both games.

King loaded the bases again in the second inning, only to face a red-hot O’Brien. She cashed in with a three-run double, giving her seven RBI for the day and a 3-0 lead for the visiting team. 

Pitt battled back in the bottom of the second with two runs of its own. Kaila Balatgek scored by a Florida State throwing error, and the next batter, Jordan Fannin, slapped a double down the third base line to trim Florida State’s lead to 3-2.  

Once the top of the third inning began, Pitt seemed to run out of steam. What began as hopes for redemption was soon muddled by a long finish to the afternoon.

Florida State cruised to another victory, scoring seven more times to win 10-3. Florida State starting pitcher Jessica Burroughs only allowed two hits and struck out nine in five innings of work. 

Ashlee Sills’ RBI single to left field in the sixth provided the only scoring play for the Panthers beyond the second inning.    

Consequently, Pitt increased its losing streak to seven games and recorded its 14th loss in ACC play. 

The obvious standout of the afternoon was O’Brien, whom the Panthers wanted no part of as the second game lingered on. The Panthers intentionally walked her four times in game two after hitting for a perfect batting average on the day and smashing two home runs.

Pitt will look to bounce back this Friday and Saturday when it hosts Georgia Tech for a three-game series.