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Pitt

Panthers Fall 12-5 in Game 2 to Wake Forest, Suffer Back-to-Back Series Losses

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Desperately needing a win to get back on track with the postseason rapidly approaching, Pitt baseball has failed to show up. 

Facing the ACC’s worst team by record, the Panthers have turned in a pair of back-breaking losses, the latest of which was a 12-5 drubbing in their penultimate regular season contest at David F. Couch Field in Winston-Salem. 

Wake Forest (18-27 overall, 9-22 ACC), who will be left out of the ACC Tournament this season, has won its first two games against Pitt (12-18 overall, 16-16 ACC), a team that had league championship aspirations just a couple of short weeks ago, in dominating fashion. The Demon Deacons have outscored the Panthers 18-6 through 18 innings this weekend and clinched just their second series win of the season with Friday’s victory. 

An inauspicious start for Pitt snowballed quickly into a blowout. 

It was more of the same. Crooked numbers and multi-run innings continue to elude  head coach Mike Bell’s offense, even with an altered starting lineup.

In the first inning, the Panthers put two men on with no one out. Third baseman Sky Duff, who has been on a 37-for-69 (.536) hot streak over his last 17 games from the lead off spot, came to bat in the opening half as the three-hitter. But the red-hot Duff chose to bunt instead of swing away, moving his teammates along to create a 2nd and 3rd chance for clean-up hitter Ron Washington Jr. 

Washington drove a run home with a sacrifice groundout to give the Panthers their first lead of the series. A strikeout from senior second baseman David Yanni later and the inning was over with the Panthers having garnered just one run out of a two-on, no-out situation.

 

In the bottom half of the first, Matt Gilbertson — who was absent from the program’s slate of listed starters entering the weekend — suffered uncharacteristic struggles with his command on the mound and gave his team’s only lead back quickly.

The junior righty was unable to locate effectively, and the hard-hitting Deacons took full advantage. They tagged Gilbertson for 8 earned runs over 3 ⅓ innings. Friday marked the first time in his career that Gilbertson failed to reach the fifth inning in a start. He surrendered 10 hits  and 3 walks, the most in any of his starts this season.

His replacement, sophomore CJ McKennitt did not fare much better. McKennitt, who had been one of the more reliable arms to come from head coach Mike Bell’s bullpen this year, faced five batters, recorded only one out, walked three and was pulled after allowing four runs to score.

Wake Forest is first in the conference, fourth nationally in home runs and lived up to that billing on Friday. After shortstop Mike Turconi belted his sixth, seventh and eighth bombs of the season — all two-run shots — on Thursday night, infielders Brock Wilken and Bobby Seymour added two more to the team total. 

Senior Chris Gomez was able to stabilize things for the Panthers upon relieving McKennitt. He threw 4 ⅓ innings of shutout ball, striking out a pair and walking none in the process. At one point, Gomez retired eight straight Demon Deacons. 

Yanni belted his 12th homer of the season, scoring one of Pitt’s five runs, in the loss

Pitt and Wake Forest will conclude both of their regular season schedules with a Saturday matinee. Right-hander Will Flemming is scheduled to start on the hill for the Demon Deacons and no starter has been named yet for the Panthers. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. from Couch Field. 

 

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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