April 5, 2012
PITTSBURGH - The Pitt baseball team's eight-game winning streak at Charles L. Cost Field came to an end Thursday as the Panthers fell in their series opener with Connecticut, 8-2.
In a game that was actually more closely contested than the final score indicates, Pitt trailed by just two runs, 4-2, after seven innings. But UConn pulled away with a four-run eighth inning to stay at the top of the Big East standings at 16-13 overall and 6-1 in the conference.
The Panthers, who had won three straight games - including two in the Big East - dropped to 14-13 overall and 2-5 in the conference.
The loss came with one of the top pitchers in the conference on the mound for Pitt. Matt Iannazzo, the program's all-time wins leader, gave up five runs (four earned) in seven innings of work as he lost in back-to-back starts for the first time in his illustrious college career.
UConn jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning when the first three batters of the game collected hits. Pitt's senior left-hander worked his way out of the inning without any more damage, but would later give up single runs in both the fourth and fifth innings.
Still, while not having his best stuff on the mound Thursday, Iannazzo did enough to keep his team in the game. Pitt looked poised to make a comeback, scoring in the sixth and seventh innings, but ultimately the Panthers' inability to get hits with runners in scoring position hurt their cause.
The problems started in the third inning when freshman Boo Vazquez roped a leadoff triple to the warning track in deep right center field. But, he scored as the Panthers' threat ended with two strikeouts and a runner caught stealing second.
The seventh inning looked to have even more scoring potential for Pitt. While it did result in one run for the Panthers, the big inning was thwarted when runners on second and third with no outs never reached home.
"If we push a couple of those runs across it's a different ballgame," said Pitt head coach Joe Jordano. "It affects everything we do. I'm a little bit disappointed in how we executed today. We just have to come out tomorrow and do a much better job."
A bright spot for the Panthers came from the performance of their two relievers late in the game. Luke Novosel and Jeff Kelly combined to give up just one hit in 1.2 innings of work. It was the season debut for Kelly.
Sam Parente went 3 for 4 on the day and is now second in Pitt's lineup with a .382 batting average. Only Rick Devereaux is ahead of Parente. Despite an 0-for-4 showing, Devereaux is still batting .415, and he drove in one run to give him a Big East-leading 38 on the season.
There have been very few games this season where Pitt struggled to at least get runners on base, and Thursday's game was no different. The Panthers had 10 hits, including two each from Vazquez and another freshman, Elvin Soto. Stephen Vranka, Anthony Defabio, and Casey Roche had one hit apiece.
Last weekend Pitt lost the opening game at Cincinnati before bouncing back with wins in the final two games to take the series. The Panthers will look to do the same when their series with UConn resumes on Friday at 3 p.m.
"We had our opportunities, but obviously we didn't cash in. We needed to have some big at-bats and we didn't get them," Jordano said. "That's what we talked about post-game. We're going to need to be in a little better position, especially against a team like UConn, who pitches extremely well. We have to take advantage of our opportunities."