Entering the last weekend of Pitt baseball still has so much left to play for. They’re still battling for a division title, as well as seeding in the ACC and NCAA Tournament.
Wake Forest — the Panthers’ final regular season opponent — on the other hand, is simply playing for a bit of pride and hoping to improve on their league-worst 18-27 record. But even after being eliminated from postseason play, the Demon Deacons turned in a convincing win in game one of their final series of the year.
The Deacons topped the Panthers in game one by leaning on their strengths. Wake (18-27 overall, 18-27 ACC), far and away the ACC’s best home run-hitting team, beat Pitt (22-17 overall, 16-15 ACC), 6-1 on Thursday night at David F. Couch Ballpark in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, behind three, two-run dingers from shortstop Mike Turconi and 7 ⅓ brilliant, shutout innings from right-handed starter Ryan Cusick.
Cusick, ranked as the No. 12 overall prospect in this year’s MLB Draft by ESPN, overpowered the Panther offense with fastballs that touched triple-digits on the radar gun. He scattered six hits and one walk over 112 pitches. Cusick didn’t allow a run while on the mound, but was ultimately held responsible for Pitt’s lone run after Jordan Anderson singled and came around to score on a fielder’s choice
Pitt loaded the bases twice in the eighth inning, but was only able to tally one run. David Yanni’s strikeout ended the top of the penultimate frame and stranded three baserunners. The Panthers left seven on base over the course of the night.
Friday night starter Mitch Myers was, for the most part, his typical, reliable self for visiting Pitt. He dueled with Cusiak for four innings, before Turconi’s second home run of the evening doubled the deficit from two to four.
Myers made few mistakes, but each one proved to be costly. The two home runs Myers surrendered were preceded by a hit-by-pitch and single in the first and fifth, respectively, by lead-off hitter Lucas Costello.
Myers’ final line was innocent enough — six innings pitched, six hits, four runs and two walks allowed — but the two home runs loomed large, especially with Crusick dealing in the opposite half of each inning.
& that’s a hat trick for @turconi6!! 🎩🎩🎩
Have yourself a day 👏
— Wake Forest Baseball (@WakeBaseball) May 21, 2021
Of the few bright spots for Pitt was third baseman Sky Duff, who continued his recent lengthy, offensive tear with a 2-for-3 game that included a walk and his team-leading 18th double of the season.
With this loss, the Panthers drop from second to third in the Coastal Division standings and, with just two games left to play, their hopes of matching first-place Georgia Tech’s 19 wins and capturing a division title have been dashed.
Their odds of securing a winning conference record for the first time since 2013 have also suffered a serious blow. Pitt will need to win the next two games against Wake Forest in order to secure that milestone.
But that will prove a serious challenge. Assumed games two and three starters Matt Gilbertson and Billy Corcoran are not available this weekend, presumably in an effort to keep them fresh for the ACC Tournament which begins this coming Tuesday.
Game two between the Panthers and Demon Deacons is slated to begin at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon and will be streamed on ACC Network Extra.