It was deja vu for Pitt baseball in Atlanta on Saturday night. In Friday’s series opener against No. 7 Georgia Tech, the Panthers rallied to score 11 runs over the final three innings — including eight in the ninth — to pull off a stunning victory over the Yellow Jackets. On Saturday the Panthers once again entered trailing and mounted a serious threat to take the lead, but their comeback fell short.
Pitt (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC) started strong behind another great start from junior right-handed pitcher Matt Gilbertson, who was dominant through six innings on the mound. But his start went south quickly. Georgia Tech (9-4 overall, 6-2 ACC) broke through in the seventh inning to tag Gilbertson with three game-deciding runs.
The win puts the Yellow Jackets back in first place in the ACC Coastal Division and keeps their streak of 12 conference series wins in a row alive.
Pitt opened the game loudly. Junior left fielder Kyle Hess tripled in the first and junior designated hitter Ron Washington drove him in with a long sacrifice fly to make it 1-0, Panthers. They would add another score off the hot bat of sixth-year senior David Yanni, who doubled to score Hess in the third.
T3 | Pitt 2, No. 7 GT 0
— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) March 13, 2021
On the defensive side, Gilbertson held one of the nation’s best offenses to just one run through six innings of work. He weaved his way out of various Yellow Jacket scoring chances in the fourth and fifth innings by virtue of pinpoint location with his fastball and a back-breaking change up.
But in the seventh, Tech’s ACC-leading offense finally broke through to chase Gilbertson from the game. Having surpassed the 100-pitch threshold, he began to tire. He got the first two outs of the frame with little resistance, but a two-out walk surrendered to sophomore third baseman Justin-Henry Malloy would come to haunt Gilbertson.
After Malloy walked on five pitches, freshman catcher Kevin Parada doubled to bring him home and draw the game even at two runs a piece. The very next batter, fellow freshman Drew Compton ripped a base hit up the middle to plate another run and give the Yellow Jackets the lead at 3-2.
They would add two more in the eighth but those runs proved superfluous.
Freshman Zach Maxwell entered in the ninth to try and close out the win, less than 24 hours removed from late-game collapse in game one perpetrated by the bullpen and fueled by the three runs he allowed in the seventh inning.
Washington led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Then Yanni walked. With two on and one out, junior first baseman Bryce Hulett singled to score Washington easily and it looked as if Maxwell was about to be a part of another devastating blown lead.
But, determined not to repeat last night’s disaster, Maxwell mixed his pitches well, incorporating well-executed breaking pitches to his overpowering fastball en route to a pair of strikeouts that shut the door in the top of the ninth.
Three freshman — outfielders Jake DeLeo and Trez Gonzalez, as well as Parada — fueled the offensive attack for Georgia Tech. They combined to go 7-12 on the evening and drive in three of the Yellow Jackets’ five runs.
This crucial early-season series between the Coastal Division’s current top-two teams will come down to Sunday’s rubber match. Pitt has not yet announced who will start on the mound opposite Tech’s redshirt sophomore left-hander Sam Crawford. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.