The futile Panther offense that failed to come up with clutch hits in big moments appears to be a fixture of the past after two games against Miami this weekend. Pitt baseball now looks like a completely different team from the one that struggled through the weekend series vs. Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.
For every punch Miami has delivered, Pitt has responded with one just as strong. The Panthers came up with a counter for everything the Hurricanes have thrown at them — on the base paths , at the plate, on the mound and in the field.
A return to more aggressive play has paid immediate dividends for Pitt, in the form of the program’s first ever series win over Miami. The No. 24 Panthers (16-10 overall, 11-9 ACC) topped the 18th-ranked Hurricanes (17-10 overall, 10-9 ACC) by a final of 6-4 in a back and forth affair on Saturday afternoon. The win also marked Pitt’s first series victory over an ACC opponent since March 20-22, when the Panthers took two of three games from Virginia in Charlottesville.
Pitt held on by the skin of its teeth in game two vs. the Hurricanes. Miami was knocking on the door in the final frame. Senior closer Jordan McCrum was called upon by Panthers head coach Mike Bell for a six-out save. The first three outs, he managed capably, but things fell apart quickly in the top of the ninth.
He gave up a lead off single, then hit two Hurricane hitters with a pitch. McCrum loaded the bases, then was promptly pulled in favor of junior reliever Dylan Lester. Lester escaped the bases-loaded, no-out jam without surrendering a run thanks in large part to his defense.
The first batter Lester faced, second baseman Anthony Vilar, lifted a shallow fly ball to left field. Junior Ron Washington Jr. caught the routine ball and fired to his cut off man, Sky Duff. Because the ball was hit so short, freshman shortstop Dominic Pitelli held at third base without trying to tag up.
Right fielder Gabe Rivera, on the other hand, was caught frozen off of second base. Duff cut Washington’s throw off and rifled the ball to second. Second baseman David Yanni applied the tag on Rivera and completed the unconventional twin killing. Lester struck out the next batter to end the ballgame and earn his first save of the year.
— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) April 10, 2021
While it was not the type of start he’s become accustomed too, junior starter Matt Gilbertson was solid on the mound. He finished with the win, having gone seven innings and surrendered just four runs against a hard-hitting Miami lineup.
On offense, the Panthers put together a small-ball attack of singles and stolen bases that outdid the Hurricanes powerful bats. Pitt scored six runs on six hits, with no player recording more than one hit or RBI for themselves. To get runners into scoring position, they ran.
Pitt base-runners challenged Adrian Del Castillo, one of the country’s best defensive catchers and a projected early-round MLB Draft pick, all afternoon. They went a perfect 5-5 stealing bases off of Castillo, with junior outfielders Nico Popa and Jordan Anderson collecting two each.
After clinching the series, Pitt has jumped back into the top of the ever-changing ACC Coastal division hierarchy. They currently sit tied for second place with Georgia Tech, two games behind leading Virginia Tech.
The Panthers will look to finish off a three-game sweep of the Hurricanes on Sunday afternoon. First pitch from Charles L. Cost Field is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.