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April 17, 2012

AKRON – A five-run inning almost led the Pitt baseball team to a great comeback in a non-conference game on Tuesday, but the Panthers came up one run short in a 6-5 loss at Kent State.

The Panthers (17-18) trailed 5-0 after five innings before exploding for five runs of their own in the top of the sixth. They batted around as seven different players reached base, including four on base hits.

The first three batters of the sixth inning reached base for Pitt and the first out was a productive one. Rick Devereaux led off with a hit-by-pitch and scored on Sam Parente’s double. After advancing to third on a single by Casey Roche, Parente scored on a sacrifice fly by Boo Vazquez.

Following the RBI by Vazquez, three more Panthers reached base. Eric Hess walked, and Evan Oswald and Ronald Sucre followed with back-to-back RBI singles to right field. Oswald would later score the game-tying run on a wild pitch.

Evan Campbell drove in the game-deciding run for Kent State in the bottom half of the sixth, scoring Alex Miklos with a single.

Luke Novosel made his first career start for Pitt and received a no-decision. He gave up four runs on seven hits in five innings of work. He walked one batter and struck out two. Reliever Jeff Kelly made his second appearance of the season, moving his total scoreless innings of work to 3 2/3.

Close losses have been the story of the season for the Panthers. Statistically, they have some of the top players in the BIG EAST, and even the nation, and could be a scary team to play if they are able to get into the conference tournament. Fourteen of their 18 losses have come by two runs or less, including eight by just one run.

"It has been a very challenging season for us.  We are playing good baseball, but we need to get ourselves over the top,” said Pitt head coach Joe Jordano.  “I cannot recall a season where we have had so many extremely close games. We have to work hard to keep fighting every pitch of every game.  I believe in this team and have confidence we can make a run.”

With five games scheduled for the second consecutive week, including a crucial three-game conference series at West Virginia this weekend, Pitt took the opportunity to rest some of its starters. Anthony Defabio, the league leader in OBP, did not play, while Stephen Vranka entered the game late. Devereaux, usually the team’s first baseman, served as the designated hitter.

Pitt drops to 1-1 this season against Kent State, a very formidable non-conference opponent. The Golden Flashes have qualified for the NCAA Regional Tournament in four of the past five seasons.

The Panthers are also 1-1 against their next opponent and will look to win the season series when they host Akron at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Pitt Falls to Kent State, 6-5

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