March 18, 2011
PITTSBURGH - The University of Pittsburgh baseball team rallied from a three-run deficit to post a 9-6 victory over Niagara on Friday in the first contest of the Petersen Sports Complex Panther Classic at Charles L. Cost Stadium.
Senior David Chester went 2-for-3 from the plate while classmates Kevan Smith and Travis Whitmore each collected two hits to lead the Panthers (9-5) to the first win at their brand-new confines. Chester and Ronald Sucre had three RBI apiece.
Pitt registered 15 hits on the afternoon, while Alex Caravella picked up the victory on the mound to improve to 2-0 on the season.
The Purples Eagles (2-15) scored twice in the first inning, leaving two runners stranded.
The Panthers got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second off a solo shot over the left center field wall by Chester. The home run was the second in as many days for the first baseman and third of the season.
Pitt tied the contest at 2-2 in the third inning. An error by the NU left fielder put Derik Wilson on base. He stole second and scored on a single into left center from senior Zach Duggan.
Niagara put three runs on the board in the next frame. With two outs and two on, Cam Stykemain slugged a triple into right center to plate a pair for the Purple Eagles. They added one more to close the inning and pull ahead, 5-2.
The Panthers countered with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Whitmore singled down the left field line to advance Chester, who had earned a walk in the previous at-bat. The two moved to second and third, respectively, on a base hit up the middle from catcher Anthony Defabio.
Third basema Sucre followed, drilling a bases-clearing triple that reached the warning track in left center. Three runs scored as the Panthers knotted the game at 5-5.
The Purple Eagles had runners on second and third in the top of the fifth with two outs, but pitcher Corey Baker got out of the inning when Duggan made a diving catch in center to end the frame.
Niagara added a run in the sixth to break the tie and move to a 6-5 advantage.
Pitt broke the game open in the seventh, erupting for four runs on four hits in the decisive frame. Stephen Vranka walked to start the inning and moved to third on a single by senior John Schultz. With new pitcher Connor Sullivan on the mound for Niagara and runners on the corners, Smith sent the first pitch into opposite field to plate Vranka and tie the contest for the third time.
Chester followed with his second hit of the afternoon, sending a blast into right center that notched two runs.
With a pair of runners aboard in the top of the ninth, freshman righty Casey Roche forced the final batter to ground into a fielder's choice.
Pitt plays a pair of contests on Saturday, March 19 in day two of the PSC Panther Classic, facing Youngstown State at noon and Toledo at 6 p.m.
Saturday, March 19
Pitt vs. YSU, Noon
Niagara at YSU, 3 p.m.
Pitt vs. Toledo, 6 p.m.
Sunday, March 20
Toledo vs. YSU, Noon
Pitt vs. Niagara, 3 p.m.