May 8, 2012
PITTSBURGH – The Pitt baseball team is catching fire right when it needs to the most, posting its sixth win in its last eight games by beating visiting Akron 8-2 on Tuesday at Charles L. Cost Field.
The hot streak comes at a time when Pitt (25-22) is set to play its two most important conference series of the season, a three-game set at Seton Hall this weekend and three games against nationally-ranked Louisville next weekend. The Panthers sit just one game back of the final BIG EAST playoff spot with those six games remaining.
“It’s very important because you want to have that confidence heading into the weekend,” Jordano said of his team’s play the past couple of weeks. “I think our guys understand that we’re probably playing our best baseball at this stage of the game. The task in front of us is pretty big, but I know we’re up for it and we’re excited about the opportunity.”
Jordano was especially pleased with his team’s play against the Zips on Tuesday. Sophomore Stephen Vranka highlighted the blowout with his first-career home run, a solo shot in the fourth inning. Vranka made the most of his first homer, slamming it over the scoreboard in left-center field.
Pitt trailed 2-1 after one inning, but took the lead and pulled away with five runs in the second. It was the final game of the season series between the two teams. The Panthers took three of the four games.
Alex Caravella has thrived as a midweek starter, picking up wins in consecutive weeks. After allowing just one run in a five-inning game at Ohio in his previous start, Caravella was equally impressive against the Zips, allowing two runs in six innings of work. His time on the mound was interrupted by a half-hour rain delay, but he still managed to keep his control, striking out six and walking none.
Jeff Kelly relieved Caravella in the seventh and pitched three scoreless innings to earn his first career save. Kelly has made just four appearances this season, but has been flawless as far as the scoreboard is concerned with seven shutout innings.
The Panthers’ lineup had 12 hits in the game, led by Rick Devereaux and Elvin Soto with three apiece. Sam Parente paced the team with three RBI, while Devereaux, who entered the game second in the conference in RBI, added two. Freshman Eric Hess came through with his first career hit with a double to the right-center field gap on a pinch-hit opportunity.
“I thought overall our approach at the plate was very solid, we had some good pitching, and we played defense,” Jordano said. “When you do those three things in a ballgame, you have a very good chance to win. We saw that result today.”
The Panthers’ series at Seton hall begins with a doubleheader on Friday. The teams will finish the series with one game on Saturday.