WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A four-run second inning proved the difference maker in Thursday’s series opener at No. 20 Wake Forest, as the University of Pittsburgh fell to the Demon Deacons 7-4 at David F. Couch Ballpark in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“We played hard tonight and had some quality opportunities offensively,” said head coach Joe Jordano. “We played clean defensively as well. We hit some balls hard, but could not find any green. We left 12 guys on base. Wake Forest is good and is nationally ranked for a reason. They put together one of the best offensive lineups in the ACC and they took advantage of our three walks and a hit batter, all of whom scored. That was the difference. Tomorrow is our season.”
The Panthers struck first, plating two in the opening frame to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Jacob Wright got things going with a leadoff triple and was brought around on a single by Alex Amos. A double down the third base line by Frank Maldonado allowed Amos to score, putting the Panthers on top 2-0.
Wake Forest answered in the second, as a four-run inning gave the Demon Deacons a two-run lead. Starter Josh Mitchell gave up pair of walks and a single through the left side to load the bases, as the Panthers called upon Dan Hammer from the bullpen. A sacrifice fly plated the first run of the inning before back-to-back hit by pitches gave up another, tying the outing at 2-2.
Hammer would surrender a wild pitch and a single before a ground out ended the inning and the Demon Deacons went up 4-2.
In the third, the Panthers put up two more as Maldonado singled through the left side, making way for a two-run jack off the bat of Nick Banman to tie the contest at 4-4. A solo homer in the bottom of the inning by Ben Breazeale off Matt Pidich put Wake Forest back on top 5-4.
Pidich would keep things close for the Panthers, retiring nine straight in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. In those innings, Pitt would threaten, but was unable to advance a runner past second, as the Demon Deacons remained in control, 5-4.
In the seventh, RJ Freure came in relief of Pidich, getting a pair of quick outs before back-to-back singles allowed the Demon Deacons to push a run across. Freure would load the bases with two outs before Sam Mersing entered the game, getting Johnny Aiello to ground out to end the inning with Wake Forest on top 6-4.
Wake Forest added a run in the eighth to extend its lead to three. A walk and stolen base put a man in scoring position before a single up the middle gave Wake a 7-4 lead.
In the ninth, the leadoff man, Maldonado, would reach after being struck by his 10th pitch of the season. Manny Pazos would move Maldonado into scoring position, drawing a full count walk. Banman would go down on strikes for the first out of the inning. A nicely turned double play would end the game as the 20th-ranked Demon Deacons captured a 7-4 victory.
With the loss, Pitt falls to 22-29 (8-20 ACC). The Demon Deacons improve to 37-16 (18-10 ACC). Pidich earned the loss, falling to 4-4 on the year. Offensively, both Maldonado and Amos put together two-hit performances, each adding an RBI, run scored and a walk. Banman collected a pair of RBIs off the two-run homer.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow, with first pitch set for 6 p.m. at David F. Couch Ballpark. Josh Falk is set to take the hill for the Panthers, facing off against Wake Forest’s Donnie Sellers.
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