April 18, 2012
PITTSBURGH - It's been a season of milestones and records for Pitt head coach Joe Jordano. The latest came on Wednesday as he tallied his 700th career win thanks to a walk-off homerun by Casey Roche to lift the Panthers past visiting Akron, 3-2.
Jordano had already notched his 400th win at Pitt earlier this season and just four victories later became the program's all-time winningest coach. His 700 wins over a 25-year coaching career include 283 at Mercyhurst and 417 with the Panthers.
"You reflect back on all of the players and support and people that are involved with your program that make opportunities like this happen. I'm very grateful to my former players and staff and obviously everybody currently involved with the program," Jordano said. "It's very nice to reach all those milestones. Obviously I couldn't do it without the support of my family. It's been awesome."
Late in the game against the Zips, it looked like Jordano and the Panthers might need extra innings to pick up their latest win. But with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth inning, Roche hit a line drive over the left field wall to end the game.
"Going into that at-bat I had been struggling the whole day. I was 0-for-4, but my teammates kept picking me up and put me in a pretty good mindset heading into that at-bat," Roche said. "I was sitting fastball on the first pitch and hooked it a little foul. I didn't think he would come back to that, he threw a slider and I just stayed through it."
It was the third home run of the season for Roche and the first walk-off win of the year for the Panthers. Elvin Soto hit a go-ahead home run in the top of 11th inning in a win over Cincinnati earlier in the year.
J.R. Leonardi pitched two scoreless innings in relief to pick up his second win of the season. Freshman Dave Yakopec was solid in his first career start, giving up just one run on three hits in 4.2 innings.
Akron tied the game with a run in the fifth, but the Panthers regained the lead just an inning later. Following a walk by Ronald Sucre to lead off the inning, Evan Oswald reached on a fielder's choice. Derik Wilson roped a double off the left field wall to advance Oswald to third and Elvin Soto drove him in with a sacrifice fly.
The Zips tied the game in the seventh inning, setting up Roche's clutch blast two innings later.
"It was a very exciting, great ballgame. Both teams played well defensively and the pitching was solid," Jordano said. "We were fortunate to have the last at-bat and with two outs Casey drilled that one. It was very exciting for our team."
Pitt will look to take the momentum from Wednesday's win into this weekend's critical three-game conference series at rival West Virginia. The first game of that series will start at 6 p.m. on Friday.
"The next series is huge. We definitely need to go down there and win the series," Roche said. "We know the importance of it and we're going to go in there with a lot of intensity."