The timing of a home sweep at the hands of NC State could not have come at a worse time. Since returning from a two-week long layoff due to COVID-19 protocols, the Panthers have turned in a pedestrian 2-5 record that has threatened to knock them out of the ever-tightening NCAA Regional hosting conversation.
The typically reliable Panther pitching staff was exposed over three games at Charles L. Cost Field by NC State (26-14 overall, 17-13 ACC), a team which boasts one of the ACC’s best offenses. The Wolfpack hit eight home runs over the weekend, five of which came in a 10-3 win over Pitt (22-16 overall, 16-14 ACC) in a game three that was not as close as the score would indicate. NC State was dominated in every facet of the game.
The overpowering offense was to be expected, but on Sunday afternoon, brilliant pitching from NC State’s freshman starter Matt Willadsen, who entered the weekend unaware that he would even start game three, won the day.
The 6-foot-3 right hander flummoxed Panther hitters for seven innings. He scattered seven hits and gave up just a walk and a run while striking out eight. The biggest, but ultimately inconsequential, blemish to his record came in the eighth, when junior left fielder Ron Washington Jr. crushed a two-run, 450-foot home run to center field.
B8: Pitt 3, NC State 8@RWashingtonJr1 sends this ball into orbit 🪐
4️⃣5️⃣0️⃣ feet dead center
— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) May 16, 2021
Willaden exited after Washington’s bomb and was replaced by fellow freshman Chris Villaman, who tossed two scoreless innings to close the game.
Pitt’s pitching staff, on the other hand, which had been a strength for most of the season, was rocked all weekend long, particularly so in Sunday’s finale. Sophomore starter Billy Corcoran, who had just recently been relieved of a post-elbow-injury pitch limit, lasted only 2 ⅓ innings. He surrendered five runs on five hits and two walks, while command of his usually excellent secondary pitches ran wild.
Closer Jordan McCrum, who’s been a star for head coach Mike Bell out of the bullpen, stabilized things briefly before surrendering a two-run double to the red-hot shortstop Jose Torres that gave NC State a 7-1 lead in the fifth and blew the game open.
Torres’ three hits, one homer and four RBIs stood out among a crowded Wolfpack box score. His predecessor in the lineup, designated hitter Terrell Tatum, was similarly explosive. Tatum recorded two hits on Sunday, both were long home runs over the batter’s eye in center field.
McCrum’s replacement — CJ McKennitt — was the lone Pitt reliever to hold NC State scoreless. He threw just one inning and let up a pair of walks, but no runs.
Seven of 10 Panther hits came from three batters. Washington recorded three, sophomore third baseman Sky Duff had two and junior designated hitter Kyle Hess has two as well, including one double.
It was a demoralizing loss for the Panthers, who are now staring down the final week of regular season play in the midst of one of their lowest stretches of the year. Pitt will need to make the most of their last four games — a mid week contest vs. Akron on Tuesday afternoon and a three-game set at Wake Forest next weekend — if they are to maintain any kind of positive momentum into the postseason.
Tuesday’s first pitch vs. the Zips is scheduled for 3 p.m from Charles L. Cost Field and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.