March 16, 2013
PITTSBURGH - The University of Pittsburgh baseball team (11-6) scored five runs in its final three innings but it wasn't enough as the Panthers fell to Niagara (4-16), 7-5, this afternoon in the Panther Classic II at Cost Field at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Jim Fort (1-2) registered the win for the Purple Eagles after pitching 7.0 innings allowing five hits and three earned while striking out eight. Andrew Belfiglio (0-2) (FR/Newtown Square, Pa.) took the loss for Pitt.
Niagara struck first when it scored four runs in the top of the third inning. Following the Purple Eagles solid inning, Jimmy Devine (SR/Pittsburgh, Pa.) was able to quite the NU bats going 2.2 innings allowing no runs on two hits and striking out a pair of batters.
Pitt was unable to capitalize on the momentum created by Devine as Fort held the Panther bats in check through six innings.
The Purple Eagles struck again in the top of the seventh inning getting a three run home run from Christian Vangeison to push their lead to 7-0.
The Panthers started a comeback effort in the home half of the seventh. After the first two batters recorded outs, Dylan Wolsonovich (FR/Ford City, Pa.) got a rally going by legging out a single to the hole in short. After falling behind in the count 1-2 early, Elvin Soto (SO/New York, N.Y.) was able to register a walk to put runners on first and second. Evan Oswald (SR/Butler, Pa.) then followed with a bullet into center field bringing home Wolsonovich for Pitt's first run. Eric Hess (SO, Erie, Pa.) came to the plate aggressively and smacked the first pitch he saw from Fort over the head of Jordan Schwartz in right field for a two RBI double to get the Panthers back into the game at 7-3.
(SR/Erie, Pa.), who came out of the Pitt bullpen in the top of the seventh, was able to keep Niagara off the board for the eighth and ninth innings allowing only one hit and striking out two to keep the Panthers within shouting distance as the innings wound down.
With Fort pulled from the game after 112 pitches, the Purple Eagles turned to Geoff Soja to close out the game. Soja was able to get the first two outs of the eighth before A.J. Lardo (FR/Baltimore, Md.) singled to second and Boo Vazquez (SO/Youngstown, Ohio) scorched a 1-1 pitch into right field moving Lardo to third. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Soja was able to get out of the inning with a strikeout.
Going into the bottom of the ninth Pitt needed four runs to tie the game and force extra innings. Soto started the inning with a single but was retired at second on a fielder's choice. With one out, Hess singled into right to put runner on the corner. Following another out, John Peluso (SR/Bethlehem, Pa.) came on to pinch hit and worked Soja for walk to load the bases with two outs. Sam Parente came to the dish with the bags full of Panthers and roped a 0-1 fastball up the middle for a two RBI single which cut the Niagara lead to 7-5 and put the winning run at the plate. Unfortunately for Pitt, Lardo's ball to right field died just short of the warning track and the Purple Eagles were able to escape with the victory.
The Panthers will be back in action tomorrow, Sunday, March 17, at noon when they face Toledo (7-10) in their final game of the Panther Classic II.