March 16, 2008
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.--The Pitt baseball team earned a hard-fought, 6-5 win Saturday night over top-notch opponent Bethune-Cookman. Down one with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, left fielder Sean Conley changed the outcome of the game with the swing of his bat, as the senior blasted a two-run, walk-off homer over the right field wall. The Panthers are now 2-0 in the Papa John's Challenge and improved to 5-7 on the year, as the Wildcats fell to 10-6.
Coming off a three-game winning streak, Bethune-Cookman took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first. After Pitt starter Rob Brant (SR/Mansfield, Pa./Mansfield) struck out the first two batters he faced in the inning, the Wildcats rallied for some two-out lighting, with three consecutive hits, scoring two runs.
The score remained unchanged as both teams battled through the next three innings. Neither recorded a hit until the Panther offense stepped up in the bottom of the fourth. Dan Williams (SR/Berwyn, Pa./Episcopal Academy) reach first base safely after a fielding error on the Bethune-Cookman shortstop. Pitt third baseman Joe Leonard (FR/Dawson, Pa./Connellsville) made the Wildcat error hurt, as he drove Williams in with an RBI-single to center field, cutting Bethune-Cookman's lead to 2-1.
The Wildcats plated a single run in both the fifth and sixth innings, extending the score to 4-1 in their favor. Brant went six innings for Pitt, recording nine strikeouts while giving up four runs off six hits. The left-handed started was replaced on the mound by Corey Baker (FR/New City, N.Y./Clarkstown South) following the sixth inning.
The Panther offense picked up a run of its own in the bottom of the seventh, when relief pitcher Roman Lancara balked with the bases loaded, advancing Panther center fielder Jordan Herr (RS SO/Lancaster, Pa./Delaware) home.
Herr had notched a leadoff single to get things rolling for Pitt in the seventh, as teammate Chris Tonte (JR/Pittston, Pa./Lackawanna Community College) followed suit with a single of his own. Pinch hitter Philip Konieczny (FR/West Lawn, Pa./Wilson West Lawn) was hit by Lancara, loading the bases with no outs. It was during the next at bat that Lancara would flinch, allowing the Panthers to close in on the Wildcats 4-2, as Herr crossed the plate.
Bethune-Cookman once again responded to Pitt's offense, tallying another run in the top of the eighth off Baker, pushing the score to 5-2 in the Wildcats' favor. Baker would finish out the eighth, logging two innings of work before giving way to closer Ricky Breymier (JR/Clarks Summit, Pa./Lackawanna Community College) in the ninth.
Down by three, the Pitt offense came to life in the games' final two innings. The Panthers got three-consecutive singles to start the bottom of the eighth inning as Conley ripped a leadoff hit to right-center. Teammates Williams and Leonard followed, as Leonard's second RBI-single of the day brought Conley home for Pitt's third run of the game. Two batters and a new Wildcat pitcher later, Herr sent a long fly ball to center field, allowing Williams to tag up and score, as Pitt closed in on Bethune-Cookman 5-4.
Breymier shut the Wildcat offense down in the top of the ninth, striking out two of the four batters he faced. The closer gave the Pitt offense the chance it needed, as he would eventually pick up his first career win as a Panther following the bottom half of the inning.
Down one in the bottom of the ninth, Pitt was looking to generate two game-winning runs. Pinch hitter Chris Warner (RS JR/West Seneca, N.Y./University of South Carolina) got things started by drawing a leadoff walk from Wildcat closer Concepcion Guzman, as right fielder Zach Duggan (RS FR/Cranberry Twp., Pa./Seneca Valley) bunted pinch runner Matt Litzinger (JR/Pittsburgh, Pa./Serra Catholic) over to second.
Guzman would get Panther shortstop Danny Lopez (SO/Queens, N.Y./Monsignor McClancy) to fly out to center field for the second out of the inning, as Litzinger advanced to third. With two outs and a runner at the corner, Conley launched his fourth homerun of the season, lifting the Panthers over the Wildcats 6-5.
Conley has homered in back-to-back game for the Panthers, while tallying a team-high 20 RBI this season. His team-leading batting average (.354) and slugging percentage (.688) have attributed to every Panther win this season.
Pitt will conclude play in the Papa John's Challenge tomorrow as it's slated for a doubleheader. The Panthers will face New Jersey Tech at 10 a.m. and Cornell at approximately 1:30 p.m. Pitt will then head back north as it prepares for a mid-week game at Akron on March 19, before opening up Big East play at West Virginia the weekend of March 20.