PITTSBURGH — Pitt took on Oakland in a non-conference matchup on Wednesday at Charles L. Cost Field looking to get a win before ACC play on the weekend. Unfortunately for them, missed opportunities and poor relief pitching late on doomed those chances and ended in an 8-4 loss.
Pitt (24-18) came away with just two wins in four games total against mid-majors NC A&T and Oakland (22-21). Pitt also struggled against the dominant pitching of Oakland, as they walked only twice and struck out nine times. Pitt head coach Mike Bell gave credit to Oakland for playing their brand of baseball and using that as an advantage against his team in the win.
“Very disappointing,” Bell said in the Panthers’ performance. “Disappointing in us due to the fact that we’ve done some really good things this year. We really preach and teach about playing our best brand and best game of baseball towards the end of the year. And I don’t think last weekend or today is a reflection of that.”
Oakland started quickly, with senior infielder Gabe Lux leading off with a double to centerfield and scoring later in the inning on a groundout by fellow senior infielder Jared Miller.
Pitt responded in the second inning as senior infielder Bryce Hulett singled and then junior designated hitter Jack Anderson reached base after a hit by pitch. A fly out by junior infielder Brock Franks brought Hulett home and then a single by sophomore outfielder CJ Funk scored Anderson to give Pitt a 2-1 lead.
The Golden Grizzlies put the pressure on again in the third inning. Lux and senior infielder Michael Stygles singled to start the inning. Lux attempted to go home, but he did not tag home and Panthers junior catcher Tatem Levins tagged him out. Stygles then made it to third base on a wild pitch and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice to tie the game at 2-2.
The Panthers retook the lead in the fourth inning. They loaded the bases with two singles from senior infielder Jeffrey Wehler and Funk plus hit by pitch for sophomore outfielder Dom Popa. Levins then got hit by a pitch, which brought home a run to make it 3-2. Two strikeouts by senior outfielder Ron Washington Jr. and Hulett ended the inning for the Panthers and their chances to extend the lead.
“We hit some balls very hard throughout the game right at some guys,” Bell said. “I thought the turning point for me were their ability with two outs, I believe it was three different strikeouts against our guys. One against our three-hole, one against our four-hole and one against our six-hole. So their ability to pitch out of runners in scoring position situations and maybe our lack of that.”
Stygles came through for Oakland again in the fifth inning, hitting a big home run to right field to tie the game at 3-3.
Graduate outfielder Seth Tucker singled to start the seventh inning, stole second base and moved to third base on a throwing error by Levins. Lux then singled to score Tucker from second base to tie the game at 4-4. Stygles came through for the Golden Bears once again with hit out to the wall that ended up a triple, scoring Lux, taking a 5-4 lead.
Pitt cut into the lead with a home run to left field by Washington, making it a 5-4 game.
The Panthers had a chance in the eighth inning to tie the game or even take the lead. Funk walked and Popa and Levins were both hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Washington popped out to end the inning.
Oakland senior infielder Luke Malmanger started the ninth inning off with a single, advanced to second base on a wild pitch and then made it to third after a groundout by Tucker. Lux then walked to put runners at first base and third base with one out. Junior outfielder Ian Cleary then singled right to Pitt senior pitcher Baron Stuart with Malmanger running home.
Stuart then bobbled the ball and Malmanger scored on his indecisiveness. Stuart then tried to get Cleary out at first, but threw the ball out of the reach of first-year infielder Tommy Tavarez and it allowed Lux to score all the way from first to make it a 7-4 ballgame. A Miller sacrifice bunt then brought Cleary home, who made it all the way to third on the error, to culminate the scoring in the ninth inning, at 8-4.
Pitt will take on Duke this weekend at home in a crucial ACC series that has major implications on their chances of making the NCAA Tournament in June.