April 1, 2012
CINCINNATI -Elvin Soto hit a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the 11th inning to lead Pitt to a come-from-behind 10-9 win at Cincinnati on Sunday at Marge Schott Stadium. The victory gives the Panthers the series advantage over the Bearcats with wins in the second and third games.
Soto's homer, the third of the game for the Panthers (13-12, 2-4 BIG EAST), gives him a team-leading six on the season. Earlier in the game, Rick Devereaux hit his fifth long ball of the year to give Pitt a 9-7 lead in the top of the eighth inning.
"Skip told me to have the best at-bat of the day," Soto said. "I was looking to get on base with a walk or a single, but I got a pitch I could drive and just took it a long way."
"I was sitting in the dugout and right before the pitch I said he's going to hit a mistake," said Pitt head coach Joe Jordano. "Isler's tough. It was 91-92 on the outer half of the plate, but it was elevated and he turned on it. And it was obviously the biggest hit of the game."
As it turned out, Devereaux's solo shot was important in the Pitt victory, too, as Cincinnati tied the game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Freshman closer Tanner Wilt came in with one out and went on to pitch 3.1 scoreless innings for his first win of the season.
Early on it was all Cincinnati as the Bearcats jumped out to a 5-1 lead after two innings, a score that remained that way after four innings. That number is significant because the Panthers had struggled to come back this season, posting a 0-8 record when trailing after three innings.
But the Panthers had no trouble coming back against the Bearcats, scoring twice in the fifth inning and five runs in the sixth to take their first lead of the game.
Casey Roche started the rally for Pitt with his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to left-center field to cut the deficit to 5-3. Just one inning later, he gave the Panthers a 7-6 lead with a sacrifice fly.
In addition to Roche's RBI in the fifth, Anthony Defabio drove in two runs with a double, Stephen Vranka knocked in one with a single and Sam Parente upped Pitt's lead to 8-6 with a single up the middle.
For the game, Pitt tallied 20 hits, its highest total this season. Devereaux paced the attack with four hits and three runs scored. Derik Wilson, Vranka, Roche, Boo Vazquez, Sam Parente and Evan Oswald also had multiple hits.
"These guys have to learn to learn to perform under this type of pressure, these type of game situations," Jordano said. "The only way to experience it is to live it and that's what these guys are doing now. We feel pretty good about where we're at."
The Panthers' bullpen had their work cut out for them and came through in a game the team needed to win. Alex Caravella, Joe Harvey, J.R. Leonardi and Wilt combined for 10.1 innings of work. They gave up six runs, but kept the team in the game, allowing the comeback.
Wilt gave up just one hit in his ninth relief appearance this season. Of pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched, he leads the Pitt staff with a 2.31 ERA.
Pitt will have its work cut out for it this week as it plays four games in four days, all at home. The Panthers will host Youngstown State in a non-conference game on Wednesday before hosting Connecticut in a three-game Big East series on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.