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Pitt Baseball

Patience at the Plate Leads Pitt to 11-8 Comeback Victory Over Bucknell in Home Opener



PITTSBURGH — Pitt used great patience and discipline at the plate to mount a late comeback to defeat Bucknell, 11-8, in their home opener at Charles L. Cost Field on Tuesday.

The Panthers (5-3) win makes it three straight wins and four of their last five, as they took three out of four against the Harvard Crimson in Port Charlotte, Fla. last weekend. This win puts the all-time series 25-12 in favor of the Panthers over the Bison (2-5). This is also the 40th home opener win for the Panthers and the first since 2020, when they defeated the Indiana State Sycamores 11-1.

Panthers head coach Mike Bell spoke on the importance of the patience that his batters brought to the plate against the Bison. He said that it allowed his team to get some big hits, but also to earn walks that led the Panthers to victory.

“We talk about winning pitches,” Bell said. “Sometimes that’s spoiling a good pitch by an opposing pitcher. Sometimes that’s spitting at things outside the zone. Our patience today allowed us to build some innings…Patience is probably the key to today. I think it’s going to be a theme for us coaches too is patience.”

Bucknell started the scoring in the top of the second inning. Sophomore infielder Sean Keys reached first base on a fielder’s choice and then stole second base. Junior catcher Nick Adamo doubled to right center to bring Keys home for the first run.

Pitt stared the bottom of the third inning with junior outfielder Dom Popa walking, junior catcher Johnny Long III singling to move Popa to third base and graduate third baseman Sky Duff walking as well to load the bases. Junior outfielder CJ Funk then crushed a ball over the right field wall for a grand slam to give Pitt a 4-1 lead.

The Bison cut the lead in the top of the fourth inning to two runs. With two runners on first base and second base, Pitt sophomore shortstop Tommy Tavarez got the out at second base, but junior second baseman Justin Acal threw the ball away from first base. This error allowed sophomore infielder Billy Kender to makes it from second base all the way to home plate.

Panthers junior left-handed pitcher Zack Oswald came in as a relief pitcher in the top of the fifth inning. He struck out a batter and got a ground out and looked inc control.

Unfortunately for Oswald, he soon lost that control, walking the next two batters and hitting a batter to load the bases. He walked another batter to give up a run and then Keys hit a double off of him to score two runners to give Bucknell a 5-4 lead.

Pitt loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth inning, but first-year utility man AJ Nessler hit into a double play that Bucknell executed perfectly to score no runs in the inning.

The Bison continued to add it on in the top of the sixth inning. Panthers redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Brady Devereaux allowed a three-run home run to junior outfielder Jacob Corson that sailed over the left field wall to give the Bison an 8-4 lead.

The Panthers cut into the Bison’s advantage in the bottom of the seventh inning. Duff walked, Funk singled and then senior first baseman Noah Martinez doubled down the first base line, scoring both Duff and Funk. The Panthers would eventually load the bases, but Acal struck out and Popa grounded out to end the inning.

Pitt graduate infielder Brett Heckert came in as a pinch hitter for Long to start the bottom of the eighth inning and doubled down the third base line.

Heckert’s double started Pitt’s long eighth inning, as Duff moved to first on a hit by pitch and then Funk walked to load the bases. Martinez walked to cut the lead to one, senior designated hitter Jack Anderson scored the tying run on a hit by pitch and Nessler walked to give Pitt a 9-8 lead.

Tavarez struck out, but Acal hit a grounder that bounced off the Bison first baseman, sophomore Tyler Dunn, to score Martinez. Popa walked as well to increase Pitt’s lead to three.

Graduate right-handed pitcher Nash Byran shut things down for Pitt in the ninth inning, keeping Bucknell scoreless and earning a save.

Sophomore left-handed Quin Konuszewski, junior right-handed pitcher Dylan Simmons and Bryan made big relief appearances late in the victory for the Panthers over the Bison. They combined for 3.1 innings pitched, only one hit and one walk allowed and seven strikeouts.

Junior right-handed pitcher Holden Phelps made his first start for Pitt against Bucknell. He pitched four innings, made four strikeouts, allowed three hits, two runs, one unearned run and one walk. He will serve as the mid-week pitcher for Pitt going forward throughout 2023.

Bell said that many of his pitchers are new to this level and that they will work to fill certain roles this season. He also commended Phelps on his first start and his relief pitching late for solidifying the victory.

“Once you do get a lead, as you go through our schedule, you have to be able to hold those leads late. Being able to pitch and play defense will be a key component for us.”

Pitt travels back to Florida this weekend. They will take on Mount St. Mary’s and Stetson in two games each in DeLand, Fla.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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