March 28, 2012
PITTSBURGH - Elvin Soto hit a three-run home run and Casey Roche went five innings on the mound for his first win of the season as Pitt held on for a 6-5 win over Kent State at Charles L. Cost Field on Wednesday.
The win snapped a 10-game losing streak against the Golden Flashes and evened the Panthers' record at 11-11. It also helps Joe Jordano's squad hit the road on a positive note as it resumes Big East play with a three-game series at Cincinnati this weekend.
"We have a great deal of respect for Kent State. It's an outstanding program with outstanding coaches," Jordano said. "Any time we have an opportunity to compete and win against a team of that caliber is a great feeling."
Pitt jumped ahead early with three runs in the first inning and led 6-1 after three innings. Kent State slowly chipped away at the lead with one run in the fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth innings to cut the lead to 6-5.
Freshman closer Tanner Wilt came on to close game for his fifth save of the season, but it wasn't easy against the top of a tough Kent lineup. The Golden Flashes loaded the bases with two outs and their No. 5 hitter, Nick Hamilton, at the plate. Hamilton just missed giving his team the lead with a deep drive to right-center field that was caught on the run by Mike Douglas to end the game.
The great play by Douglas helped the Panthers move to 10-0 when leading after eight innings. It also helped the team come through in a close game, something it had struggled to do in recent games.
"I thought Roche competed extremely well. We gave him a lead early and he pitched well with it. It was a great feeling to be on the other side of those one-run decisions," Jordano said.
Soto's blast in the third inning gives him five on the season, most among Pitt players. Looking for a spark at the bottom of the lineup, Jordano moved the switch-hitting freshman catcher to the eighth spot, and Soto came through with a smash that he knew was gone as soon as it left the bat.
The meat of the Pitt lineup came through to give the Panthers an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. Anthony Defabio started the rally with a one-out walk and scored quickly as Rick Devereaux followed with a triple off the top of the right-center field wall. Boo Vazquez had a RBI single in the inning, while Sam Parente drove in a run with a double.
Parente was 3-for-4 in the game and has been on fire as of late. He has hits in five straight games, raising his season average to .378.
DeFabio, who started in left field for the first time as a college player, continued his impressive streak this season. The senior walked twice and now has either one hit or one walk in all 22 games this season. He leads the Big East with a .534 on-base percentage.
Roche allowed three runs in five innings of work, giving up five hits and two walks while striking out four batters. He retired the first seven hitters of the game before giving up his first hit, and eventually the first run, in the third inning.
Pitt will travel for its second conference series of the season this weekend at Cincinnati. Both the Panthers and Bearcats enter the series with 0-3 marks in the Big East.