Playing in the ACC, with 11 of 14 baseball programs located in the southern United States, Pitt baseball has embraced the bad weather inherent to their northern locale.
With 12 mile per hour winds, temperatures in the low 40s and an on-and-off wintery mix, starting pitcher Matt Gilbertson said the doubleheader on Friday, March 25 against Clemson gave the Panthers a chance to take advantage of that identity.
“When you see the weather like today…you know you can just attack the zone, hitters don’t like to hit in the cold,” Gilbertson said. “You get ahead in the count, and let guys get themselves out.”
Gilbertson grew up in Henderson, Nev., just outside Las Vegas. Despite this, he’s adopted the bad weather native to Pittsburgh.
“Being from here, the last couple years, you kinda learn to adapt to it,” Gilbertson said. “I think [Clemson] struggled with it a lot more than we did today.”
While the Panthers starters pitched phenomenal games, striking out 18 batters across 12 innings and giving up just one run, Pitt’s bullpen has been dismal this season, with a 7.48 ERA across 78.2 innings pitched.
Senior Baron Stuart has established himself as one of the most reliable options for the Panthers—which entails a heavy workload. Stuart pitched four innings across the doubleheader and picked up a save in the second game.
Even though he was sitting on an eight run lead, head coach Mike Bell sent Stuart out to pitch two innings and finish the first game against Clemson: he didn’t want to take any chances against the Tigers potent lineup.
“At some point in time, a good team is gonna come back, and that’s baseball,” Bell said. “You knew at some point in time over 18 innings they were going to come back. We needed to put a stop to it, and we did a good job of doing that.”
Bell’s prediction came true in the second game, as the Tigers scored six runs in two innings, closing a 9-1 deficit to 9-7.
Once again, Bell called on Stuart to step up.
“[What] we talk about when adversity hits is how we’re gonna respond,” Bell said. “We prepared for it. We kept him warm during the game, we activated him the right way…but with the game on the line, you want your best guy out there.”