UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In the final of a home-and-home series with rival Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh baseball team claimed a 9-1 victory over the Nittany Lions at Medlar Field in University Park, Pa. Tuesday evening.
With the win, Pitt has claimed the season series with its cross-state rival, as the Panthers earned a 3-2 win over the Nittany Lions earlier this month at Charles L. Cost Field.
“I am very pleased with the way we played tonight,” said head coach Joe Jordano. “[Josh] Mitchell got us off to a good start and Chris [Gomez] really pitched well. It was great to get TJ [Pagan] out there as well and he was solid.
“We took advantage of some mistakes by Penn State and had some solid situational at bats that produced runs. We played a great game defensively. It was really a very well-played game for us.”
The Panthers struck early, taking a 1-0 lead in the first frame as Jacob Wright led off the game with a triple to center. Wright would cross home on a single through the right side by Caleb Parry. Frank Maldonado would put men on first and second after an infield single, as Pitt would strand the pair but claim a 1-0 lead.
Pitt starter Josh Mitchell would work around a leadoff single in the first to retire the side, fanning the final two batters to silence the Nittany Lions in the first. The Panthers extended their lead in the second, adding another run to take a 2-0 lead. P.J. DeMeo got the inning going, reaching on an error by Penn State second baseman Christian Helsel and moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Amos. DeMeo took third after Nico Popa grounded out and was brought home on a well-hit single to the shortstop off the bat of Wright.
Freshman Chris Gomez took over on the bump for the second and tossed a lights out frame, retiring the side in order with just five pitches, ending the inning with a called third strike to Keith Leavitt. Gomez was again solid in the third, pitching around a one-out single to hold the Nittany Lions off the scoreboard.
The Panthers put up two in both the fourth and fifth innings, capitalizing on three Penn State errors to take a 6-0 advantage. In the fourth, Manny Pazos would reach on a throwing error by the shortstop, moving to second on a wild pitch and taking third on a throwing error by the catcher. A walk to DeMeo would put runners on corners before another wild pitch would allow Pazos to score and put DeMeo in scoring position. A sacrifice bunt by Amos moved DeMeo to third with just one out before the Nittany Lions called upon the bullpen. The third wild pitch of the inning scored DeMeo as Pitt took a 4-0 advantage.
In the fifth, back-to-back singles by Yaya Chentouf and Maldonado put two on with one out as a successful double steal moved both into scoring position. A walk to Nick Banman loaded the bases as the Nittany Lions defense again faltered. Pazos would send a well-hit shot into left as the ball tumbled out of the glove of Nick Riotto, allowing both Chentouf and Maldonado to score.
Gomez continued to dominate in the fifth, working around a leadoff walk and a two-out single, striking out the side to keep the lead at 6-0 in favor of the Panthers.
Pitt continued to expose the Nittany Lions in the sixth, scoring three to take a 9-0 lead. Amos led off the inning taking a pitch to the back. A sacrifice bunt by Popa moved Amos into scoring position as the freshman took third after a groundout by Wright. Parry would reach on a fielding error by the Penn State third baseman, allowing Amos to score. Chentouf would be the second Panther of the frame to take a pitch to the back, putting men on first and second with two outs for Maldonado who would draw a walk to load the bases. A single through the right side off the bat of Banman would score Chentouf and Parry as Pitt took a commanding 9-0 advantage.
The offense quieted following the sixth, as neither team was able to score until the Nittany Lions broke the shutout in the ninth. TJ Pagan took over on the bump for Gomez with two outs in the sixth and held the Nittany Lions to just three hits until he was relieved by Chentouf in the ninth.
A hit batter and walk put a pair on with two outs for Penn State as a single scored the runner and pushed the score to 9-1 in favor of the Panthers. Chentouf would get Conlin Hughes to line out to Popa to end the game as Pitt captured its second straight win over the Nittany Lions.
On the evening, the Nittany Lions committed five errors in the field, the most any opponent has faltered against the Panthers this season and the most since fellow Big 10 program Ohio State committed four on Feb. 18, 2017 in Kissimmee, Fla., as Pitt knocked off the reigning Big 10 Champions 7-2. The last team to commit five errors in a game against the Panthers was St. John’s on March 24, 2013 in an 11-2 Pitt win.
With the victory, the Panthers improve to 16-17 on the season. Gomez earns his third win as the freshman now sits at 3-1 on the year.
Offensively, Maldonado was 3-4 on the evening with a walk and a run scored. Banman went 1-4 with two RBIs and a walk while Wright added a 2-5 outing with an RBI and run scored.
Pitt will return to Charles L. Cost Field for a second mid-week match against Kent State on April 19 before taking on ACC opponent No. 5 North Carolina April 21-23 at home.
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