March 24, 2013
Queens, N.Y. — The University of Pittsburgh baseball team (15-6, 3-0 Big East) completed a three-game series sweep over St. John’s (7-14, 0-3 Big East) Sunday afternoon in the opening weekend of conference play with an 11-2 win at Jack Kaiser Stadium in Queens, N.Y.
“It was a solid weekend,” said head coach Joe Jordano. “We pitched very well and played outstanding defensively under some tough field conditions. I was also pleased with how we were very disciplined at the plate and took advantage of some opportunities during the three games.”
Not only did the Panthers hand the Red Storm their first three losses at home this season, but they also delivered St. John’s its first three-game series sweep at home in 17 years (1996 vs. Providence). Pitt last jumped out to a 3-0 start in the Big East in 2010 when it swept the Red Storm in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Rhys Aldenhoven (JR/Victoria, Australia) (4-0, 3.18 ERA) pitched seven strong innings and allowed just one earned run to pick up the win. Ryan Horstman (3-3, 2.53 ERA) took the loss for St. John’s, allowing eight runs (one earned run) on seven hits in four innings of work.
The Panthers also maintained their prowess at the plate during the series by producing 37 runs on 32 hits, outscoring St. John’s by 24 runs in total. Pitt, one of the leading offensive units in the country, is now batting .306 as a team and is averaging 8.52 runs per game.
With one out in the top of the second, Sam Parente (SR/Pittston, Pa.) singled to center field to give the Panthers their first hit of the game. Elvin Soto (SO/New York, N.Y.) moved Parente into scoring position with a single through the left side and Stephen Vranka (JR/Monroeville, Pa.) followed by delivering an RBI-single to right field to give Pitt an early 1-0 lead.
Casey Roche (JR/Downingtown, Pa.) extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a one-out-single to center in the opening frame of the third. After a Steven Shelinsky, Jr. (JR/Yardley, Pa.) single, Horstman hit Boo Vazquez (SO/Youngstown, Ohio) with a pitch to load the bases for Parente. Ty Blankmeyer misplayed a ball put in play by Parente at second base allowing Roche to score from third to make it a 2-0 game in the Panthers’ favor.
Soto plated two runs with a single to left-center scoring Shelinsky and Vazquez to take a 4-0 advantage over the Red Storm. Vranka hit an RBI-single to score Parente and Evan Oswald (SR/Butler, Pa.) reached on an error by Sean O’Hare allowing two runs to score to give Pitt a seven-run lead. Roche, batting for the second time in the inning, later manufactured the final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to center field to put the Panthers on top, 8-0.
After three innings of near-perfect baseball, Aldenhoven surrendered his first hit of the afternoon in the bottom of the fourth to Blankmeyer. Blankmeyer, advancing to second on a passed ball and to third on a tag-up from a fly ball hit to right field, then scored on a Frank Schwindel RBI-single to left-center to make it an 8-1 game. Schwindel later scored for St. John’s in the bottom of the sixth when he was driven in by an RBI-single to left hit by O’Hare, 8-2.
Pitt manufactured three runs in the top of the seventh inning highlighted by a double with no outs by Vranka with Soto on base and an RBI-single to the right side by Roche to give the Panthers an 11-2 lead.
The Red Storm could not spark any offense in the later innings of the game. Jon Danielczyk (SR/Erie, Pa.) (0-0, 3.12 ERA) came on in relief of Aldenhoven in the eighth and worked an efficient 1.1 innings allowing no hits and no runs. Pete Macke (FR/Omaha, Neb.) (0-0, 0.00 ERA), making his first career appearance for the Panthers, finished the final two-thirds of the ninth to secure the series sweep.
Pitt’s undefeated weekend against the Red Storm marked the first time in program history that the Panthers have swept the previous season’s Big East Tournament Champion in a three-game series. Pitt has twice taken two-game sets from a defending conference tournament champion, sweeping Notre Dame in 2004 and 2007, but never has it accomplished the three-game feat prior to the St. John’s series.
Additionally, for the first time since 1994 and second time ever since joining the Big East in 1982, the Panthers have won their first three games of nonconference play (Wichita State) and swept their first conference series (St. John’s) in a single season. Pitt opened its nonconference schedule with wins against Indianapolis, Grand Valley State, and Winona State and swept Boston College to open Big East competition 19 seasons ago.
“It is a long season and we will continue to work hard on improving our consistency in all areas,” said Jordano. “St. John's is a solid team and has an incredible history and program. It is a tough place to play. Our club played hard.”
The Panthers return to action on Wednesday, March 27, when they travel to State College, Pa. to take on Penn State in a midweek nonconference matchup.