March 2, 2014
GREENVILLE, N.C. - The University of Pittsburgh baseball team (4-5) lost to Western Kentucky, 3-2, in an 11-inning nail-biter Sunday afternoon in the tournament finale of the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C.
Sam Higgs (2-1, 0.00 ERA) was credited with the win for the Hilltoppers after tossing a perfect frame in relief in the top of the 11th inning. Hobie Harris (JR/McKinney, Texas) (1-1, 1.98 ERA) was tagged with the loss for the Panthers, allowing one run on three hits in 3.2 innings out of the bullpen.
Scott Wilcox reached on an infield error with one out in the home half of the first and was followed by Ryan Church, who walked, to put two runners on base for Western Kentucky. Philip Diedrick grounded to short on a fielder's choice in the next at-bat, allowing Wilcox to advance to third on the play. With two down and two men on, Thomas Peter singled to center field to drive in the first run of the game, giving the Hilltoppers an early 1-0 advantage over Pitt.
Western Kentucky added another run to its total in the bottom of the second. Anderson Miller and Ty Downing each produced base hits to the right side to lead off the inning. Miller, who arrived at third base on the Downing single, then scored on an infield double play to put the Hilltoppers on top by a 2-0 score.
Rhys Aldenhoven (SR/Victoria, Australia) settled down smoothly for the remainder of his outing, registering four consecutive perfect frames after allowing a pair of runs in the opening two. Jake Thompson, however, was able to overmatch Aldenhoven's scoreless stretch through each of the first six innings, allowing no runs and striking out four batters while the Panthers managed to scatter just four hits.
Pitt found new life at the plate in the top of the seventh, beginning with a one-out double by Eric Hess (JR/Erie, Pa.) and an RBI single from Stephen Vranka (SR/Monroeville, Pa.) that cut the deficit to one run, 2-1. After driving in Hess, Vranka stole second base and then scored on a single up the middle by Dylan Wolsonovich (SO/Ford City, Pa.) to tie the game at two runs apiece.
Harris came on in relief of Aldenhoven in the bottom of the eighth. After facing eight batters in the eighth and ninth frames, Harris managed to blank Western Kentucky to take the game into extras with a 2-2 tie.
In the top of the 10th, Vranka walked and then advanced to third on a balk by Ian Tompkins and a groundball out put in play by Wolsonovich. Boo Vazquez (JR/Youngstown, Ohio) then struck out swinging and Casey Roche (SR/Downingtown, Pa.) grounded out to the first baseman to leave the go-ahead run stranded just 90 feet from home plate.
With two outs in the bottom of the 11th, Ryan Messex sparked a rally with a base on balls. David Simmons entered the game as a pinch runner for Messex and quickly found himself in scoring position after a wild pitch by Harris. Pitt opted to intentionally walk Miller to ensure a force out at any bag, but a single through the left side by Downing allowed the Hilltoppers to take home the victory, 3-2.
The Panthers return to action Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. when they open ACC competition at No. 22 North Carolina. The eight-game road trip (March 7-16) also includes a two-game series against Presbyterian and a three-game conference set vs. Virginia Tech.
For more information on Pitt baseball, follow the media relations Twitter account at @PittBaseballACC and the coaching staff at @PITTBASEBALL.