Pitt took an early lead through the middle innings in the second game of their series against No. 14 UNC Saturday afternoon, and it looked as if they could get their first ACC win of the year.
North Carolina stopped that from happening as they hit two home runs, one that tied the game in the sixth inning and a walk-off in the ninth, to win the game at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Panthers (8-6 overall, 0-2 ACC) saw good pitching performances from both starter, sophomore left-handed Logan Evans and relief pitcher, sophomore right-handed Hayden Summers. Aside from each giving up home runs, they set the tone, got strikeouts and handed the Panthers’ hitters opportunities to expand on the early lead and also take the lead late against the Tar Heels (13-2 overall, 2-0 ACC).
Pitt and UNC started off in a pitchers’ duel in the first three innings as Evans and North Carolina’s sophomore right-handed Max Carlson were dealing early on. Evans focused on mixing up his big fast ball by using off-speed pitches to catch out the North Carolina batters, while Carlson used his fast ball to hit the corners and blow by Pitt’s hitters.
The Panthers broke into the runs column in the top of the fourth inning. Senior outfielder Ron Washington Jr. hit a double to right field to start the inning and eventually made it home on a sacrifice fly by fellow senior outfielder Jordan Anderson.
Pitt had another great chance to score in the fifth inning with runners on third base and second base and two outs. Washington came up and hit a ball high in the sky for a routine pop-up that should have ended the inning. North Carolina sophomore infielder Johnny Castagnozzi had trouble locating the ball just outside the infield and dropped it. This allowed both senior infielder Jeffrey Wehler and sophomore catcher Johnny Long to score for Pitt, making it a 3-0 ball game.
Evans continued his great pitching into the sixth inning, but ended up in some early trouble. He hit a batter, threw a wild pitch, then walked another batter. He still managed to get two outs and was just one out from finishing a scoreless start at 100 innings pitched and seven strikeouts. Unfortunately for Evans, he gave up a three-run home run to Tar Heels sophomore infielder Mac Horvath that tied the game at three, ending his day on the mound.
Summers came in and kept the Panthers in the game, getting out of that sixth inning and pitching all the way into the ninth.
Pitt had a chance to take the lead in the ninth inning with runners on second base and first base with one out. They couldn’t take advantage of that opportunity as junior catcher Tatem Levins fouled out and Washington struck out to end the top of the ninth.
Summers kept his fastball high in the bottom of the ninth and almost gave up a home run to sophomore catcher Tomas Frick, but he flied out to center field.
Castagnozzi was the next batter and Summers kept that fast ball high and away. On a full count, that fast ball crept more inside than normal and Castagnozzi took it to deep center field for a walk-off home run.
Summers takes his first loss of the season (1-1 overall) as he pitched 2.2, gave up three hits, one being the home run and struck out four batters.
Pitt will finish up their series with North Carolina tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. looking to avoid the series sweep.