Baseball: Pitt gets chance to restart win streak at home vs. Georgia Tech


By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

After dropping its only mid-week contest this week at West Virginia, Pitt baseball looks to get back to its winning ways this weekend against Georgia Tech.

The loss in baseball’s Backyard Brawl ended the Panthers’ five-game winning streak, which included a sweep of conference foe Duke that boosted the Panthers’ record over .500.

But another three ACC wins will not come easy this time around when the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets visit Charles L. Cost Field — where the Panthers are undefeated this year — for a three-game set. Georgia Tech (15-10, 5-4 ACC) entered the Baseball America rankings for the first time this week, and will arrive in Pittsburgh ranked No. 23.

Pitt (12-11, 4-5 ACC) isn’t close to the Yellow Jackets in any ranking or poll but has a chance to gain some ground in the ACC’s Coastal Division. A series sweep would pull the Panthers out of last place in the division.

Rhys Aldenhoven, Joe Harvey and Matt Wotherspoon are listed as head coach Joe Jordano’s projected starters for the weekend’s slate of games. Georgia Tech will counter with Josh Heddinger, Devin Stanton and Matthew Grimes.

Aldenhoven (2-1, 3.60 ERA), a senior right-hander, has pitched most consistently for the Panthers this season out of the starting rotation. He earned his first conference win last weekend by scattering two runs on six hits over seven innings of work while striking out five Duke hitters.

Aldenhoven’s earned run average is the lowest of any Pitt weekend starter, and he leads the team in innings pitched and strikeouts.

The senior from Victoria, Australia, matches up against the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Heddinger, but the Yellow Jackets ace hasn’t taken the strides he was projected to take this season after he went undefeated last year.

Heddinger (1-1, 4.38 ERA) has given up 31 hits in 24 2/3 innings this year, and is allowing opposing batters to hit .301 against him.

Stanton (1-0, 3.68 ERA) makes his third start of the year for Georgia Tech on Saturday, while Grimes (3-0, 3.57 ERA) looks to win his fourth game in as many starts.

After Aldenhoven, the Panthers have received inconsistent pitching from the rest of their rotation. Matt Wotherspoon, who opened as the team’s No. 1 starter, is now third in the weekend rotation, while Joe Harvey has moved from his role as a reliever in the bullpen to the second spot in the pitching rotation.

Wotherspoon, a senior right-hander, has struggled mightily this season after finishing 9-3 last year. This year, the senior from Mountain Top, Pa., owns a 2-3 record and a 7.76 ERA.

Opponents have registered 53 hits in Wotherspoon’s 31 1/3 innings of work, and he has allowed 32 total runs to cross home plate (27 earned) in six starts.

Despite the unexpected struggles of the starting rotation, Harvey’s emergence has provided the Panthers with a source of hope.

A right-handed redshirt junior, Harvey (1-1, 3.81 ERA) has given Pitt a welcomed boost as a new member of the rotation. Over his four starts, he’s allowed 11 earned runs to score in 26 innings and has struck out 22 batters.

Offensively, the Panthers seem to be hitting their stride, as they enter the weekend averaging 7.4 runs per game in their past 10 contests — likely the result of multiple hitters who seem to be emerging from early-season slumps.

First baseman Eric Hess owns a five-game hitting streak and is batting .421 in that time, while outfielder Stephen Vranka has reached base safely in 13 consecutive games. Outfielder Casey Roche has scored six runs and driven in another six himself in his past five games.

As a team, the Panthers have raised their batting average to .273 after it sat in the low .200s earlier in the season.

Georgia Tech bats .286 as a unit and is led by Thomas Smith, who has posted a .920 on-base plus slugging percentage in his 23 games this year.