Pitt started the Mike Bell era in the win column on Friday, as the Panthers won their 2019 season opener, 7-2, over Villanova in Kissimmee, Florida.
Dan Hammer started and earned the win by pitching 5 1/3 innings of three-hit, two-run baseball, and a big third inning from the Pitt bats gave him plenty of room to work with.
“We definitely started the game off strong and we kind of built it as we went, too,” Hammer said. “There was great energy in the dugout. Everyone was real excited to get out there for the first time.”
Hammer struck out eight hitters and did not issue a walk. When the Wildcats were able to put the barrel to one of his offerings, he kept them on the ground for the most part, as he got six ground-ball outs compare to three fly-ball outs and allowed only two extra-base hits.
“I was just trying to throw first-pitch strikes and locate my off-speed stuff,” Hammer said. “When that happens, usually there’s some success. I was happy with the performance today.”
In the third frame, Pitt freshman Kyle Hess tripled to left center in his second career at-bat and scored on a passed ball. After two walks, senior catcher Cole MacLaren doubled, scoring Ron Washington and David Yanni. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, Alex Alos walked to score MacLaren. The Panthers had 15 walks in total, with freshman Sky Duff walking four times.
Staked to a big lead, Hammer allowed just a solo home run in the fourth inning by Ryan Toohers.
Derek West came in behind Hammer with one out in the fifth and kept up the strong pitching, striking out three and allowing just one hit over 1 2/3 innings, but he did allow one of his two inherited runners to score.
In the bottom of the seventh, Pitt added on. It was again patience that paid off for the Panthers as MacLaren, Duff and freshman Zach Klapak all walked to load the bases. Amos walked, Nico Popa walked and Hess was hit by a pitch to score three more.
Chris Gomez finished up the win with three strikeouts over two innings.
Pitt (1-0) will stay in Kissimmee for three more games this weekend as part of the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic Series. They have a doubleheader against Iowa and Marshall on Saturday with the first game starting at 11 a.m. and the second game starting at 6:30 p.m. They play Milwaukee on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.