Despite the temperature being less than forgiving, the Pitt Panthers baseball team (25-18, 11-10 ACC) defeated the Duke Blue Devils (19-25, 8-14) by the score of 14-4.
It was quite the day for Pitt on both sides of the field, as starting pitcher Matt Gilbertson controlled the game on the mound while the offense took advantage of every opportunity they had to put runs up on the scoreboard.
”Total team effort, up and down,” said Pitt manager Mike Bell. “I thought it was a complete package from the offensive side.”
The Pitt offense scored their first run in the first inning off of a throwing error to home. Bryce Hullet grounded out to first base, but the first baseman tried to also nab Jeffrey Wehler at home. The throw was off-target, and Wehler scored on the play. Pitt added two more in the second off a Bobby Franks home run (9) and a Wehler RBI single that scored Jordan Anderson.
The team then broke the game open in the third inning. Jack Anderson hit home Ron Washington Jr. on a single up the middle and that was followed by a RBI single from CJ Funk who scored Hullet. With the bases loaded, Franks brought home the third run on a sac fly giving Pitt a 6-0 lead in the third inning.
Gilbertson, meanwhile, Rarely found himself in a jam during the game. Through the first four innings, Gilbert had four strikeouts with three of them looking. He only allowed three hits in those four innings, with no base runner making it to third. He also didn’t walk a single batter. It wasn’t until the fifth inning that he gave up the first Duke runs.
On a 3-2 count Duke’s Devin Obee singled up the middle. Two batters later, Alex Stone homered to left field to make it a 6-2 ballgame. Gilbertson got the next two batters out to end the top of the fifth inning with only two runs surrendered.
Sky Duff, in his first game in nearly a month, was the team’s seventh run in the fifth inning. Duff had reached base earlier in the inning for his second walk of the game. He was able to move up to second on a fielder’s choice when he was brought home by Jordan Anderson, who got called out at second trying to extend the single into a double. It was the first time Duff had played since April 17 against Virginia.
Hullet added another run for Pitt in the sixth with an RBI single to center to score Wehler. Wehler scored twice on the day, and was 3-4 with an RBI of his own on offense.
Despite throwing 104 pitches through six innings, Gilbertson was brought out to pitch the seventh. He got through the 7th without allowing a run. He didn’t come back out in the eighth and ended his day with two runs allowed on five hits and one walk. He struck out six and threw 124 pitches even with the cold weather.
”I think (the weather is) an advantage for our team,” said Gilbertson. “You see their guys bundled up before the game. I think the cold weather really helps us. I think we build off it, gives us energy, and we know that we’re better at playing it than other teams are.”
The team really ended the game in the seventh. After an error by Duke allowed the bases to load with only one out, Wehler doubled home two runs to make it 10-2. Duke then walked Tatum Levins, the next batter, to once again load the bases with only an out. Washington then drew another walk to add yet another run in the inning right before Hullet added two more runs on a single to make it 13-2. Jack Anderson added the last run of the inning on a RBI single to center to make it 14-2 heading into the eighth.
Duke added two more runs off a home run in the eighth to make it 14-4, but that was it for the scoreboard. Gilbertson took the win to improve to 8-2 on the season while Jonathan Santucci of Duke became 2-2 with the loss. Pitt’s leading hitter was Wehler who went 4-for-5 on the day with three RBIs and three runs. As a whole, the team had 15 hits and drew eight walks.
”Just seeing the ball real well today,” said Wehler on what went well for him. “I’ve been working with (volunteer assistant Devin Mesoraco) the last couple of days. He’s been helping me out with a couple drills and I think that helped me out a lot today.”
Pitt will play Duke twice tomorrow in a ‘Mother’s Day double header’ before heading to Morgantown, West Virginia for the third and final edition of the 2022 baseball ‘Backyard Brawl’ against West Virginia Mountaineers (27-16, 9-6 BIG12). The two teams have split the series thus far with Tuesday’s game being the rubber match between the two.