DURHAM, N.C. – A single off the bat of senior shortstop P.J. DeMeo proved the deciding factor as the University of Pittsburgh baseball team clamed a 9-8 win in 10 innings in game two of a weekend series at Duke Saturday afternoon.
Trailing heading into the ninth, the Panthers tied it up with timely hitting from the bottom of the order and forced extra innings as Pitt reliever Isaac Mattson held the Blue Devils in check, leading the way for DeMeo’s go-ahead single.
“I was very pleased with how we came back today after a difficult game yesterday. That showed a lot of character. We certainly needed that win today,” said head coach Joe Jordano. “After getting out to an early lead, we stumbled and Duke took the lead, but we kept grinding and manufactured a couple runs, got back into the game and tied it in the ninth. Sam [Mersing] came in and settled things down and gave us a chance. Frank [Maldonado] had a great at bat to lead off the top of the 10th and Nick [Banman] followed with a single, then P.J. [DeMeo] battled and got an infield hit to put us ahead.
“Isaac [Mattson] was steady and got out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth and pitched a clean 10th for the win. Now we are in a position to possibly win the series. I anticipate a heck of a game tomorrow.”
The Panthers’ offense broke things open in the second, scoring four runs off four hits to jump out to a 4-0 lead. DeMeo and Manny Pazos would each draw one-out walks to put two on before a single up the middle by Alex Amos would score DeMeo. Pazos was caught at home as Nico Popa reached on a fielder’s choice and Pitt took a 1-0 lead.
A double to right field would score both Amos and Popa before a single from Yaya Chentouf would score Wright. Duke would get two back in the bottom of the frame as the Panthers held a 4-2 lead through two.
Nick Banman would send a solo shot into the seats in right field to extend the Pitt lead to 5-2 in the third.
In the bottom of the third, however, the Duke offense exploded, scoring six runs off six hits to take its first lead of the afternoon. An infield single got things going before Pitt starter Josh Mitchell got a pair of quick outs. A two-run homer to center cut Pitt’s lead to just one before a double and single tied it up at 5-5 and Jordano would call upon reliever RJ Freure.
The bases would load quickly as Freure surrendered a walk and hit by pitch before back-to-back singles scored three to give the Blue Devils an 8-5 lead.
After a leadoff walk in the Duke half of the fourth, senior Sam Mersing would take over on the hill and was able to silence the Blue Devil offense as the Panthers inched closer to Duke’s lead in the seventh.
With a pair of outs in the top of the seventh, Amos doubled into the right field corner and was brought home as Popa was able to reach on a throwing error by the Duke shortstop, cutting Duke’s lead to 8-7.
The Panthers kept it going in the top of the ninth, tying it at 8-8 on a Popa RBI. Pazos’ single up the middle got thing inning underway as pinch runner, Kaylor Kulina took over for Pazos. Kulina would move to second on a sacrifice bunt from Amos before a single up the middle by Popa scored the runner, tying the game at 8-8.
Mattson got into a bit of trouble in the ninth, allowing a pair of walks but escaping the inning unscathed as the Panthers were able to regain control in the 10th. With one out, Frank Maldonado singled up the middle, putting runners on the corners after a single to center by Banman. In the next at bat, DeMeo pushed an infield single to the shortstop, giving the Panthers a one-run lead.
The Blue Devil offense was silenced in the bottom of the frame, as Mattson would retire the side in order, highlighted by a pair of swinging strikeouts as the Panthers held on for the 9-8 victory.
With the victory, Pitt improves to 12-12, 5-6 ACC. The Panthers will look to take the series tomorrow afternoon, as Josh Falk takes the hill for the Panthers in the series finale. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. from Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C.
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