CHARLOTTE – Caps and helmets were tossed into the air as the Panthers sprinted out of the dugout and onto the field. They mobbed Bryce Hulett in the shallow right-center grass, not far from where he had just sent an 0-1 pitch.
“He got the first fastball inside pretty good,” Hulett said of his final at-bat against Louisville’s Jared Poland. “He just left the other one over the plate a little more… That was unreal. There was just excitement to keep it going.”
Hulett’s single into the gap in the bottom of the ninth inning on Wednesday at Truist Field drove in Jeffrey Wehler and gave Pitt a 6-5 walk-off win over the No. 2-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the ACC Tournament.
— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) May 25, 2022
With the victory, Pitt’s hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth are still alive. The Panthers – seeded 11th in the ACC’s – have won Pool B and will advance to the tournament’s semifinals, which begin on Saturday.
“That was a great ballgame against a great opponent,” Pitt coach Mike Bell said. “We knew we had our hands full today going into it. But, as I’ve said time and time again, these guys love playing for each other. They showed a lot of fight, a lot poise today, and the ability to come back. It’s really, really special… It was a total team effort all the way through.”
Wehler – a St. Mary’s native and transfer from Youngstown State – led Pitt’s offense going 3-for-5 at the plate with two home runs and a single, producing three runs scored and three RBI. Hulett notched three hits too.
“I’m thankful for Coach Bell for giving me the opportunity to be here,” Wehler said. “(The coaching staff) helped me out a lot, coming from a mid-major to a big conference, arguably one of the best every year. They switched me up a little bit, I got a few pitches to drive, and I took advantage of it.”
Pitt reliever Baron Stuart picked up the win, his second of the year, pitching two innings of shutout ball where he allowed just one hit and no walks. Before he took the mound, Brady Devereux and CJ McKennitt pitched a combined 2.1 innings, allowing just one run.
Billy Corcoran got the start, striking out three batters while giving up eight hits. He was pulled after 4.2 innings of work, after he allowed three runs in the fifth inning.
Pitt got after Louisville starter Garrett Schmeltz in the bottom of the third inning. To lead things off, Brock Franks drove the first pitch he saw into right field for a standup double. Then, after Dom Popa’s sacrifice bunt to move Franks over to third, Wehler got a hold of the first pitch he saw and hammered it over the left field wall for a two-run dinger.
Louisville responded in the fourth and fifth innings with some long balls of their own. A pair of homers by designated hitter Dalton Rushing, and an RBI single from third baseman Ben Metzinger gave Louisville a 4-2 lead in the middle of the fifth.
Pitt got one run back in the bottom of the frame thanks to Wehler’s second homer of the day – and his fourth of the season. Louisville and Pitt then exchanged homers in the sixth and seventh innings – Levi Usher for the Cards and Tatem Levins for the Panthers – bringing the score to 5-4 in the Cardinals’ favor.
THE LEAD IS CUT TO ONE!
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Trailing by just a run, the Panthers had the bases loaded with just one out in the eighth inning. Franks sacrifice fly brought home Ron Washington Jr. as the game-tying run, but two Pitt runners were left stranded when Popa grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Louisville had the go-ahead run on third base in the top of the ninth, but Stuart kept him at bay, getting two Cardinals’ batters to ground out to end the inning.
“We wouldn’t be sitting here without Baron Stuart,” Bell said.
On Saturday, Pitt will face the winner of Pool C, which will likely be the winner of Wednesday’s game between N.C. State and Miami.
“Well, we get to sleep-in tomorrow, since we’ve had the breakfast game the past two days. The guys will enjoy that a little bit,” Bell said. “We stick to what we do. That’s part of being a good ball club; being consistent. We’re going to continue to do what we’ve done all year.”
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) May 25, 2022