Pitt baseball was picked to finish dead last not just in the ACC’s Coastal Division, but in the league as a whole. Of the ACC’s 14 teams, the Panthers received the lowest number of points in the preseason coaches poll. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, was one of the favorites to win the division.
But the Panthers (9-4 overall, 6-3 ACC) left Atlanta on Sunday afternoon having taken two of three games from the seventh-ranked Georgia Tech (9-5 overall, 6-3 ACC). The Panthers entered the weekend series trailing the Yellow Jackets by a game in the division, but will leave tied with North Carolina for first place after an 18-12 win in game three.
The theme of the weekend had been blown leads and comeback wins up until Sunday’s rubber match. The Panthers earned an early advantage added run after run of insurance to ward off Georgia Tech’s potent offense.
Pitt jumped out to an early lead with a crooked second inning. Senior second baseman David Yanni led off the frame with a walk and sophomore third baseman Sam Frontino reached on an error — the first of three committed by the Yellow Jackets. One batter later, junior first baseman Bryce Hulett slugged a three-run shot high to right field and took an animated trip around the bases.
.@bryce_hulett first homer of the year was a 💣💣
— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) March 14, 2021
The Panthers would add one more on an RBI double from junior right fielder Nico Popa before the inning was over to make it a 4-0 advantage.
But they weren’t done there. In the third, the Panthers scored seven runs — all with two outs — recorded six hits, sent 11 batters to the plate and forced a pair of pitching changes. Junior catcher Riley Wash, sophomore shortstop Brock Franks, and junior outfielders Kyle Hess and Ron Washington Jr. all recorded RBI hits in the top of the third.
In the bottom half of the inning, Tech got on the board with run-scoring singles from freshmen Kevin Parada and Drew Compton, but Pitt responded with two more runs in the following half-inning.
Pitt led 13-2 entering the second half of the game. Junior righty Steven Hansen, making his third consecutive start on a Sunday, was navigating the Georgia Tech lineup handily up until the fifth inning.
It was then that the home team’s bats began to heat up. They scored three runs in the fifth and three again in the sixth. Compton continued to lead the way, singling home a run in each inning.
But the Panthers responded with a pair of loud, back-to-back home runs from Washington and Yanni.
Might start a petition to rename this park after @dyanni2 😏. This is his 6️⃣th homer in the last six games here in Atlanta!
— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) March 14, 2021
Yanni has become mightily comfortable hitting in Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium. When Pitt last visited Atlanta two years ago, Yanni hit three home runs in the series finale. He returned in 2021 with similar vigor. He broke out of a slumping start to this year’s campaign with a 6-12 weekend at the plate, launching a pair of home runs and driving in four over the course of three games.
Washington and Yanni’s long balls would prove to be all the insurance Pitt needed. Junior righty Chase Smith and senior closer Jordan McCrum locked down the final 2 ⅔ innings by surrendering just one walk, one hit and no runs on just 42 pitches.
The Panthers have now won a series on the road against two top-10 opponents through the season’s first four weekends and have another series win over an Indiana State team that split four games vs. preseason top-20 team Tennessee and took two of three games from No. 20 Florida Atlantic.
Pitt has not been ranked in a major poll since Baseball America pegged the Panthers at No. 16 on May 13, 2013. But head coach Mike Bell’s squad can expect that to change when polls are released on Monday. Former Pitt pitcher Derek West, who is currently in the Houston Astros farm system, was adamant that the Panthers should be ranked this week.
If @Pitt_BASE isnt ranked this coming week across all polls I demand a recount. Took 2 of 3 against indiana state who split with #16 team Tennessee and won the series against #20 ranked team FAU this weekend. Pitt Swept #9 FSU, and now took series from #7 Georgia Tech.
— Derek (@DerekWest_) March 14, 2021
The Panthers will play a fifth consecutive road series when they travel to take on the struggling Virginia Cavaliers next weekend before heading back to Pittsburgh for their home opener, a midweek contest against Bucknell on March 24. First pitch of the three-game set against the Cavaliers is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon.