March 21, 2012
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Pitt had more hits, more walks, and less errors but was unable to capitalize on the statistical advantage, losing 5-3 to Penn State in a non-conference baseball game on Wednesday.
Despite the loss, the Panthers (10-8) have had success lately as they get set to begin Big East play with three games at Notre Dame beginning Friday. They enter the conference series with wins in four of their last five games.
Pitt did a lot of things right in its game with Penn State, but was doomed by some clutch hitting by the Nittany Lions’ best hitter.
“Penn State did a solid job and Jordan Steranka, a very good hitter had, four of its five RBIs,” said Pitt head coach Joe Jordano.
Three of the RBIs by Steranka helped put the Panthers in an early hole just four batters into the game, as he hit a three-run home run, his third of the season.
Pitt battled back to cut the deficit to one run, scoring twice in the top of the third inning. Freshman Elvin Soto drove in both runs with a single to left field that scored Anthony Defabio and Rick Devereaux. In his first season with the Panthers, Soto has been great with runners in scoring position, tallying 19 RBIs in 18 games this season.
It was no surprise that it was DeFabio and Devereaux that were on base when Soto came through with his hit. The seniors are having a season to remember. There is still a long way to go this season, but DeFabio’s on-base percentage (.576) would put him fifth all-time in the Pitt record books, while Devereaux’s .443 average would be 11th all-time.
Penn State pulled away from Pitt with two more runs in the fifth inning, which included a RBI single by Steranka. Pitt tacked on one more run when Mike Douglas scored on a single by Stephen Vranka.
"It was a tough ball game today,” Jordano said. “I thought early we were not as patient as we should have been and had our chances to score. We left 10 runners on base and lined into two double plays. We out-hit Pen State and made no errors. It’s a little frustrating, but we have to move on and prepare for Notre dame.”
The effort was there for the Panthers as they continued to threaten a comeback in the final two innings. A play at the plate thwarted a rally in the eighth inning, while a line-drive double play prevented a big inning in the ninth.
A bright spot for Pitt was another great performance by the team’s bullpen. J.R. Leonardi, Alex Caravella, and Kevin Johnson combined for 3.1 scoreless innings. The Panther bullpen has gone four straight games without allowing a run, a streak that includes 9.2 scoreless innings.
Devereaux led the Panther offense with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, while DeFabio reached base three times in five plate appearances. Vranka and Evan Oswald had two hits apiece, while Soto and Sam Parente each had one.