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Pitt Coach Mike Bell Wants Brawl Back at PNC Park; Expanded Relationship with Pirates



PITTSBURGH — The ushers were still cleaning the aisles at PNC Park on Tuesday in the aftermath of Pitt’s 9-4 loss to West Virginia in the baseball version of the Backyard Brawl.

But Pitt head coach Mike Bell was already thinking about the next time he can take his players out to one of the most-loved ballparks in Major League Baseball.

Playing at the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time in a decade was one of the things that Bell sought out from the very beginning of his time at Pitt, which began just 10 months ago.

In the press conference room on the first level of stadium, Bell spoke to reporters about his desire to continue to build on the relationship with the Pirates.

“We’d love to play here every day, but we’ve got something else that goes on here, too,” Bell joked.

But he wants to see another Backyard Brawl played at the Pirates home, in addition to games against intrastate rival Penn State, and perhaps make a trip to the Pirates Spring Training home in Bradenton, Florida.

The logistics, more than any one piece of the puzzle holding things back, seems to be toughest hurdle. The Pirates have their schedule made by MLB, and there are only so many off days during the college baseball season. Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia also have their owns schedules to worry about, and so there is nothing set in stone going forward. But Bell is hopeful.

“We’ve got a great relationship,” Bell said. “Frank (Coonelly), Bob (Nutting), Neal (Huntington), they’ve done a great job of communicating with us. Open arms. But we’ve also got to fit within their schedule.”

Of course, it’s probably no surprise that Bell has a good relationship with Huntington and the Pirates front office. When Bell was coming out of Florida State in 1995, Huntington was part of the front office of the Montreal Expos, who picked Bell in the 20th round.

Two picks later, the Pirates selected Scott Mitchell out of the University of Pacific, and Mitchell and Bell became roommates during their minor-league careers. Mitchell is now the Pirates’ senior pitching coordinator.

Bell hopes he’s able to leverage those relationships into a greater synergy with the Pirates, which has an obvious benefit to his program and his players.

“I’d love to play Penn State and West Virginia here every year, I really would,” Bell said. “It’s about creating memories, and you can do that a lot of different ways. Next year, we just so happen that our opening conference series is in Miami. We have spring break right after. We’re playing in Tampa on Tuesday against USF. I’d love to be there at Pirates City on Monday, showing these guys what professional baseball has.”


⚾ Attendance on Tuesday was 2,129, the highest-attended game in Pittsburgh for Pitt baseball all season. Capacity at Charles L. Cost Field on campus is 900.

⚾ Pitt was eliminated from postseason contention with a 12-7 loss at No. 6 Georgia Tech on Thursday.

⚾ Derek West allowed seven runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. Reliever Chris Gomez (0-2) gave up two more in 1 1/3 innings.

⚾ OF Nico Popa hit his eighth home run of the year and second in as many games with a solo shot in the second inning. He also drove in two more runs as the Panthers batted around in the second.

⚾ SS David Yanni homered in the fifth, his career-high sixth of the season.

⚾ The Panthers have two more games against the Yellow Jackets, scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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