Pitt baseball returned to the diamond on Friday afternoon after a week’s rest to begin a three-game set at Duke. After sweeping the nationally-ranked Florida State last weekend – the Panthers’ first series win over the Seminoles ever and sweep of a top-25 opponent in more than seven years – Pitt looked flat and sloppy in Friday’s series opener.
The Panther bats were flummoxed by Duke’s junior righty Cooper Stinson. Stinson’s brilliant start on the mound powered Duke (5-4 overall, 2-2 ACC) to a 3-1 win over Pitt (6-2 overall, 3-1 ACC) at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham, North Carolina on Friday evening.
Like they did in each of the three wins against Florida State, Pitt started fast. After Sophomore shortstop Sky Duff and junior right fielder Nico Popa were retired easily by Blue Devil starting pitcher, righty Stinson, junior left fielder Kyle Hess pulled a home-run over the left field fence to make it 1-0 Pitt.
T1 | Pitt 1, Duke 0
Touch 'em all, @Hessy21Kyle! We get on the board first with Hess' 2-out homer to RF, his first of the year!
— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) March 5, 2021
But the Panthers offered little resistance after that. Junior designated hitter Ron Washington drew a walk after Hess’ homer, but Stinson sat down seven Pitt hitters in a row following.
The bats for either side were silent until the fourth inning. Myers tossed three shutout innings before defensive miscues opened the door for Duke to score. No errors were awarded to the Panthers, but misplayed balls and late tags preserved Blue Devil rallies.
It began in the fourth inning, when senior center fielder Joey Luperfido doubled to right field. Hess fielded the ball in the right-center field gap for Pitt and made a strong throw to second. It beat Luperfido to the bag, but sophomore shortstop name Franks applied the tag high and late.
Luperfido advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a fielder’s choice. He was off running on contact as a ball dribbled to Duff at third. His throw beat Luperfido to the bag but junior catcher Riley Wash’s tag was applied late. Pitt head coach Mike Bell’s challenge was unsuccessful and Duke tied the game at one a piece.
Again, in the sixth, the Blue Devils capitalized on Panther mistakes. Myers surrendered a lead-off double to Luperfido, then skipped a wild pitch past Wash. Luperfido advanced to third on a wild pitch from Myers and scored on an RBI single from graduate outfielder Peter Matt.
The Blue Devils added one more in the frame when senior infielder Chis Crabtree rolled a slow ground ball to third, which Duff was unable to field. Matt scored and the Blue Devils took a 3-1 lead.
That would be all the scoring either team could muster for the rest of the evening.
Myers was pulled at the end of the inning in favor of Canadian freshman Chris Pouliot. Myers’ start was solid — he allowed only three runs over six innings of work — but just like in his last two starts, the Pitt offense wasn’t able to provide much run support.
They failed to score on opening day against Indiana State, plated only one against Florida State a week ago and again only mustered a single run on just three hits and struck out 10 times.
Stinson was brilliant for the Blue Devils in his seven innings of work, allowing just the one run on Hess’ homer. It was one of few blemishes on his record. The imposing 6-foot-6 Stinson threw 98 pitches — 66 for strikes — and struck out nine.
The Panthers and Blue Devils will continue their series on Saturday afternoon. Junior righty Matt Gilbertson will start on the mound for Pitt against sophomore right Henry Williams for Duke. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. from Durham.