WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A two-run ninth inning and a lights out performance by reliever Sam Mersing, catapulted the University of Pittsburgh baseball team to a 5-4 victory over No. 20 Wake Forest Friday evening at David F. Couch Ballpark in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Trailing by one in the final frame, Pitt capitalized on a pair of Wake Forest errors, as a hit by pitch for Frank Maldonado and a single by Manny Pazos put two on with no outs. Both moved into scoring position after a throwing error on the pitcher. An RBI groundout and the second throwing error of the inning scored both, as the Panthers captured a one-run lead. Mersing, who entered the game in the seventh, shut down the formidable Wake Forest offense, striking out the side in order to seal the win for the Panthers.
“That may have been one of the gutsiest games that I have ever coached in understanding the magnitude of the game,” said head coach Joe Jordano. “Having Josh [Falk] give us a quality start, followed by our bullpen, which was outstanding, led by Isaac [Mattson], who came in at a critical time of the game and pitched really well and then Josh [Mitchell] coming in for the second day in a row and getting some big outs for us. “Then, of course, Sam [Mersing] as he’s done all year just comes in and pounds the zone, giving us a chance to win. Wake Forest is a complete team. They are very good in all aspects of the game and very well coached. That was a big win for us tonight. A ton of emotion in that game and we are looking forward to tomorrow.”
For the second time in as many games, the Panthers struck first, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame. After Alex Amos sent a single past the glove of the diving Wake Forest shortstop, Caleb Parry would line his sixth homer of the season over the wall in left field to put the Panthers on top.
Wake Forest put a runner on third in the bottom of the inning as a walk, stolen base and a throwing error gave the Demon Deacons a chance. Pitt starter, Josh Falk, however, would get out of the jam as the Panthers remained on top 2-0 through one.
The Demon Deacons got one back in the bottom of the second after a solo homer to right, as Pitt’s lead was cut to 2-1. A big fourth inning for Wake gave the home team the lead. A solo homer by Gavin Sheets in the first at bat of the inning tied things at 2-2. After Falk hit a man and a single and fielding error put them both in scoring position, a balk scored a runner, giving Wake Forest a 3-2 lead. A single to center would score another as Falk was replaced by Isaac Mattson and the Demon Deacons took a 4-2 advantage.
Mattson would use just three pitches to get out of the jam as a nice grab and flip to Parry got a pair of outs, but Wake Forest went up 4-3. Mattson would cruise through the next two innings, not surrendering a hit until a leadoff double in the seventh. After getting a quick pair of strikeouts, Mersing would enter the game in relief, closing out the inning with a ground ball to Nick Banman.
The fireworks came in the ninth inning for the Panthers as they regained the lead, capitalizing off a pair of throwing errors by the Wake Forest pitcher. Maldonado got things going, taking a pitch off the shoulder, his 11th hit by pitch of the season. A single up the middle by Pazos would put two on with no outs, as the duo moved into scoring position after a bad throw on a pickoff attempt sailed into the outfield. Banman would ground out to the second baseman for the first out of the inning, but Maldonado would score to tie the contest at 4-4.
In the next at bat, P.J. DeMeo would send a ball back to the pitcher, who launched the throw over the head of the first baseman, allowing Pazos to score to put Pitt up 5-4. Wake would get the final two outs, stranding DeMeo at third as the Panthers took a one-run lead into the ninth.
Mersing continued to dazzle in the ninth, striking out the side in order as the Panthers held on for a 5-4 victory over the nation’s 20th-ranked team.
With the win, Pitt improves to 23-29 (9-20 ACC). The Demon Deacons fall to 37-17 (18-11 ACC). Mersing earned the win, moving to 3-2 on the season. Offensively, Parry led the way, going 2-4 with three RBI and a run scored, including a two-run homer. Jacob Wright extended his hit-streak to 11 games and his reached base mark to 23.
The series will come to a conclusion tomorrow as the two teams are set to meet in a 12 p.m. outing at David F. Couch Ballpark. Freshman Dan Hammer is expected to get the call on the hill for the Panthers, facing off against Connor Johnstone.
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