GAME ONE Box Score (W, 3-1) | GAME TWO Box Score (L, 9-5)
SPARTANBURG, S.C.—Pitt baseball split a nonconference doubleheader with USC Upstate at Cleveland S. Harley Park on a crisp and clear Saturday in Spartanburg.
The Panthers (7-3, 0-0 ACC) took the afternoon game by a score of 3-1 before the Spartans (4-8, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) responded with a 9-5 victory in the evening.
Pitt’s Saturday split against Upstate means the Panthers have won seven of their first 10 games to open a campaign for the first time since the 2011 season, when Pitt also started 7-3.
Pidich improved to 2-0 this season as the junior starter tossed 7.0 innings with four strikeouts versus four hits, one walk and one earned run allowed. Mattson threw 2.0 perfect innings in relief with three strikeouts to earn his second save of the season.
The Panthers did most of their damage in the opening frame. Caleb Parry walked and was brought home by a Frank Maldonado triple, his first three-bagger of the season after he led the ACC in triples in 2016. Nick Banman’s RBI groundout scored Maldonado as Pitt posted a pair in the first.
Upstate responded with a run in the bottom half of the first, but Pidich settled down and was unscathed through the remainder of his 98-pitch, seven-inning outing.
“Matt Pidich made a ton of big pitches when he needed to in the first game today,” Pitt head coach Joe Jordano said of Pitt’s win over Upstate. “He worked fast, threw strikes and our defense played clean behind him. Matt deserved that win. We got a couple of big hits when we needed them against a team that is always a threat offensively, which they showed in the second game.”
Pitt scored a run in five separate innings, featuring solo homers from Frank Maldonado and P.J. DeMeo and a pair of RBI doubles off the bat of Caleb Parry, but could not completely answer USC Upstate’s early offensive outburst as the Panthers fell to the Spartans, 9-5.
Upstate posted two runs in the first inning and four more in the third, taking a 6-2 lead that Pitt never recovered from, despite its best efforts. The Panthers pulled within 6-4 after scoring single runs in the fourth and fifth frames, but the Spartans responded with tallies in the fifth and six to extend their lead.
With the score at 8-5 in the top of the eighth, Kaylor Kulina and Manny Pazos reached base for the Panthers, bringing the tying run to the plate with no outs. But Pitt’s best chance to complete the comeback ended as the Panthers left the bases loaded in the eighth and didn’t threaten in the ninth.
Dan Hammer earned his second collegiate start for Pitt and threw 2.1 innings with six earned runs on six hits with three strikeouts compared to three walks. The Panthers’ relievers conceded just three runs on seven hits in the remaining 5.2 innings with four strikeouts and no walks.
“It’s always a challenge to win both games of a doubleheader,” Jordano said of Saturday’s second game. “Dan Hammer had a learning experience. He’ll come back better in his next start. Our relievers—Chris Gomez and Sam Mersing—were alright. You have to give credit to Upstate. Every time we were gaining momentum, they came right back. Those guys in the middle of their lineup can certainly hit.”
Pitt baseball concludes its weekend in Spartanburg tomorrow afternoon with a game against the Wright State Raiders (6-4, 0-0 Horizon), a team that received votes in the most recent NCBWA Top 25 Poll. First pitch between the Panthers and Raiders is set for 12 p.m. at USC Upstate’s Harley Park.