Mitch Myers has been Pitt baseball’s ace through the first half of the 2021 season, but his 2-4 record doesn’t reflect how well he’s pitched. Among Panthers who have logged at least 20 innings, Myers is first in ERA, WHIP and opponent batting average, but also leads the team in losses with four.
His latest start against Notre Dame followed a similar script to the one before it against Virginia Tech. Myers threw eight strong innings, with two solo home runs in the fourth inning being the lone blemishes, but once again it was in a losing effort.
No. 24 Pitt (12-9 overall, 8-8 ACC) was unable to back Myers’ brilliant start with much offense and ultimately lost 4-1 in the series opener vs. No. 13 Notre Dame (12-4 overall, 11-4 ACC) at Charles L. Cost Field on Saturday afternoon.
Myers has been Pitt’s ace so far this season, but that designation means he finds himself matched up against other elite ACC starters. His run support has suffered as a result, but Myers makes no excuses. He carries himself like a professional, not letting losses get to him according to his head coach.
“I think he goes about his work everyday with a business mentality,” Bell said. “He knows that he’s going to have tough matchups against other ACC aces in game one’s of series. He’s continued to fine tune his work and I’m really proud of him, not only in his effort but in his growth as a pitcher.”
The Panther offense has struggled to put together rallies as of late. Over their last four, they are averaging just two and a half runs per game, many of which are scored late and when the game was already firmly in the hands of their opponents.
To help out Myers, Bell looked for ways to jumpstart the sluggish Pitt lineup. In the first inning, after junior three-hitter Kyle Hess reached on a hit by pitch, Ron Washington Jr. dropped a double into the right field corner. Hess tried to score, but was thrown out at home thanks to a fine relay from the Irish outfield.
The Panthers wouldn’t seriously threaten to score again until the fifth inning. Junior third baseman Sam Frontino led off the inning with a single, then junior first baseman Bryce Hulett walked.
With runners on first and second and nobody out, Riley Wash laid down a bunt, trying to move Frontino and Hulett along, but he instead pushed a ball up the third base line, right into the charging Notre Dame defense, who turned a double play by cutting down the Frontino at third then firing on to first to get Wash.
Bell was not pleased with Wash’s execution and benched him the next inning in favor of freshman Jackson Phinney.
Over the remainder of the game, Bell called upon two more reserves to try and give the offense a shot in the arm. Freshmen Matt Tarabek and CJ Funk both got one at bat but did not record a hit.
Bell left open the possibility of shaking up what has been a reliable everyday lineup, but says that any changes will have to take into account availability and opponent.
“I think we’re always looking to do some new things, and a lot of it is determined day-by-day because of health and matchups,” Bell said. “The lineup we ran out there got it done for us the first part of the year, barring injuries. Health, matchups, we’ll look at all of that. Tomorrow is a new day.”
Pitt will look to snap the losing streak and get back to their winning ways tomorrow afternoon. Matt Gilbertson will be on the mound against John Bertrand in game two. Saturday’s contest will be a 3 p.m. start and air on ACC Network Extra.