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Pitt Offense Explodes for 12-5 Win to Sweep Miami

Pitt Offense Explodes for 12-5 Win to Sweep Miami

PITTSBURGH — The wind was not the only thing blowing out on Sunday at Charles L. Cost field, as the No. 24 Pitt Panthers (17-10, 12-9 ACC) blew out the 18th-ranked Miami Hurricanes (17-11, 10-10 ACC) by a score of 12-5. 

After three scoreless innings to start the game for Pitt and a four-run second inning for Miami, the Panthers finally broke through in the fourth when they were down 4-0. A single, fielder’s choice, and a double down the line by Jordan Anderson had Pitt finally knocking on the door.

Next up was leadoff hitter Sky Duff, who slapped a single through the right side of the infield, scoring two and cutting the Miami lead in half. 

“I think our guys just kept battling the whole time,” Duff said after the win. “One through nine, everybody put together good at bats and we knew eventually that something would happen and that we were going to start to come through.”

However, the Panthers were not done just yet. After that single from Duff, senior outfielder Nico Popa came up next and smashed a home run over the right field wall, tying the game up at four and firing up the Pitt fans and dugout. The momentum had shifted. And once the Panthers gained that momentum, the bats did not stop.

In the bottom of the sixth, Popa gave the Panthers the lead with a two-RBI double through the three-four hole. After Popa came DH Kyle Hess, who pitched in with a sac fly to center. With two outs, Ron Washington Jr. reached on an error and David Yanni walked to load up the bases. With the wind blowing hard out to right, Bryce Hulett took advantage and blew this one open.

With a 1-1 count, Hulett hit a grand slam missile over the fence in right center, giving Pitt a seven-run lead at 11-4.

“It was an opportunity that the other guys helped me with, just putting me in that situation, it was selfless by my teammates,” Hulett said about his grand slam. “We were just battling hard, seeing pitches, getting good pitches, and putting good swings on them.”

Pitt’s 12th run came on a solo shot by Washington in the bottom of the eighth. Washington finished his day 2-5 with that home run and a single.

Pitt starting pitcher Stephen Hanson went four and two-thirds giving up six hits, three walks, and allowing four earned runs. Left-handed reliever Corey Sawyer replaced Hanson in the fifth, and turned in a very strong performance while the Pitt offense lit up the Miami staff.

Sawyer went two and two thirds, giving up three hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts. After Sawyer, Chase Smith came in and pitched for the final one and two thirds innings. He gave up one hit and zero earned runs in seven batters faced.

“We have had great starting pitching all year,” head coach Mike Bell said postgame. “Developing routines and roles and getting big outs on the back end, going back to the word finish, and we knew we were without Jordan today who had thrown back-to-back days, so what Corey was able to provide for us, what Smitty was able to finish up right there at the end, those are big outs. Those things are going to help build for us as we are trying to build over this next month and a half.”

Offensively, Pitt was led by Popa, Duff, and Hulett, as all three of them drove in multiple runs. Popa went 4-5 with 4 RBI’s and a home run in one of the most dominant hitting performances of the season for the Pittsburgh native.

The defensive highlight of the day came in the top of the eighth, when shortstop Brock Franks laid out for a stunning grab behind third base.

“I turned around, I was running after it, and I heard him call for the ball and I just see him flying through the air,” Duff said about the grab by Franks. “I just started cracking up laughing, because you really never know what that kid is going to do out on the field.”

This sweep of Miami marks the second sweep of an ACC team from Florida this season, as the Panthers also swept Florida State earlier in the season.

Throughout the year, the club has been calling itself ‘Gritsburgh,’ a phrase that Bell says embodies his entire roster.

Since assistant Devin Mesoraco introduced the ‘Gritsburgh’ phrase to the program, it has taken off on the team’s social media pages, and the team has made Gritsburgh shirts that are awarded to players. While it is not necessarily a player-of-the-game award, the Gritsburgh shirt is earned when a player makes a gritty play, such as a diving catch, in a game.

“I think it is something that just, kind of, embodies the team, when you think about not only our position players, our pitchers, everybody,” Bell said about the Gritsburgh mentality. “Some of our at-bats are not sexy, but we fight, and foul, and grind, and then we will hit a home run. Some of our pitching performances are not 94-97 with wipeout stuff, but there are zeros on the scoreboard, or they’re inducing ground-ball double plays. So I think when you look at our team and the way that ewe have won some games this year and won some series’, it hasn’t always been how you’ve drawn it up, but there are some gritty performances in there.”

Pitt’s next opponent will be Lipscomb, as the Panthers will host the 11-15 Bisons in a two-game set on Tuesday, April 13 and Wednesday the 14th. Both games will be broadcast on ACCNX. 

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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