ATLANTA – Despite a ninth-inning RBI single, which tied the game for the University of Pittsburgh, the Panthers fell to Georgia Tech 8-7 in the series opener Saturday night at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta.
Trailing by one in the ninth, Frank Maldonado singled through the right side to score Caleb Parry, knotting things up at 7-7. The Yellow Jackets would answer in the bottom of the frame, however, as a walk-off sacrifice fly for the home team proved the difference maker, and the Panthers fell 8-7 on the road.
“We played very hard today,” said head coach Joe Jordano. “A couple of though plays in the fifth that we did not convert cost us a big inning and that was the difference. We swung the bats well and showed some toughness to tie the game in the ninth. I was very pleased with Chris’ [Gomez] performance. He came in in a tough situation and gave us a chance. We have to continue to play with passion and strive to even the series tomorrow.”
In the second, Jacob Wright continued his impressive second half, belting a three-run homer in the second to give the Panthers an early lead. Back-to-back singles off the bats of Manny Pazos and Nico Popa put a pair on for Wright, who would send the ball over the wall in right for his sixth homer of the season.
Pitt starter Josh Mitchell would get a pair of quick outs on back-to-back strikeouts in the second before allowing a walk and a single to the Yellow Jackets. The lefty responded, getting Brandt Stallings to strike out, as Mitchell recoded four strikeouts in his first two innings of work.
In the third, singles by Alex Amos and Maldonado put two on as P.J. DeMeo sent a sacrifice fly into right to plate Pitt’s fourth run of the game and give the Panthers a 4-0 lead. Pitt added another in the fifth off another DeMeo sacrifice fly, taking a 5-0 lead.
The Yellow Jackets stormed back in the fifth, plating five runs off five hits to tie the contest. A solo homer to left got the home team on the board, cutting Pitt’s lead to 5-1. After getting the first out, Mitchell surrendered a triple and single to score two, as the Panthers saw their lead shrink to two. A walk to Kel Johnson put men on first and second with just one out as the Panthers called up reliever Sam Mersing.
A fielder’s choice scored a run and a muffed catch by Amos kept it at just one out. Another fielder’s choice and a single scored two more as Pitt saw its lead erased and the Yellow Jackets tied it at 5-5.
Both pitchers tossed quiet sixth innings, as the two teams remained tied with six complete. In the seventh, Amos and Maldonado reached on back-to-back singles, moving into scoring position after a successful sacrifice bunt by Nick Banman. The third sacrifice fly of the night for DeMeo plated a run, as Pitt went back up, 6-5.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as a two-run homer by Johnson put the home team back on top, 7-6.
Pitt had some last-minute heroics in the ninth, tying the game off a Maldonado single through the right side. After Parry doubled into left, he was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Amos, making way for the Maldonado RBI.
Georgia Tech responded with a run of their own in the ninth, as a walk off sacrifice fly to right in a one-out, bases loaded situation gave the Yellow Jackets the walk-off win, 8-7.
Chris Gomez, who entered in relief in the seventh, earned the loss, falling to 3-2 on the season. Gomez tossed 2.1 innings of work, allowing just the one earned run in the ninth off three hits and an intentional walk, fanning two. Offensively, Wright and DeMeo each recorded three RBIs, while Maldonado went 3-3 with an RBI and two walks and Amos put together a 3-4 performance, scoring three times.
With the loss, Pitt falls to 21-22 (8-14 ACC). The Yellow Jackets improve to 22-21 (7-15 ACC). The two teams will resume the series tomorrow at 6 p.m. The contest can be seen live on RSN (Root Sports Pittsburgh).
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