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Jan. 29, 2013

PITTSBURGH — The University of Pittsburgh baseball team considers itself primed for competition with the season opener less than a month away after addressing areas that needed improvement during a productive season of workouts and exhibitions.

“Each year we must assess the program and see what areas can be improved, and we must pay attention to the personnel too,” head coach Joe Jordano said. “We had a very solid fall and the individual work went very well, in addition to our strength and conditioning phase. We’re in a good position, but there is still a lot of work to do before we head to Wichita for the opener.”

The coaching staff set the Navy/Vegas World Series, a staple of the program’s fall routine where players showcase their talents in intrasquad scrimmages, as the basis for the team’s offseason planning. With a talented group of new faces to go along with 22 returning players on display, coaches formed approaches to best prepare the team for the upcoming season based on their observations of the competitive exhibitions.

“As a staff, we saw some very positive signs overall,” said Jordano. “We also were very critical in our analysis and identified some areas that needed improvement. We’ll have to work very hard every day to reach our potential, but I’m anxious for the season to start.”

Last season, the Panthers were met with many frustrations on the diamond as they lost 18 games by two or fewer runs, and 10 games by a single run, to finish with a 28-28 overall record and eighth-place finish in the Big East Conference. But with new additions to the coaching staff to compliment a strong core of both young and experienced players, Jordano believes he has a “solid baseball team” on his hands.

Assistant coaches Jerry Oakes and Jacke Healey, both in their first seasons at Pitt, made impressive marks on the team throughout the fall season. According to Jordano, Oakes “has really put his stamp on the pitching staff”, while Healey “has done a solid job” with the infielders and assisting associate head coach Danny Lopaze with the offense.

Oakes inherits a pitching staff of workhorses that walked the fewest batters (159) in the Big East and rested among the top ranks in innings pitched and strikeouts a year ago. Lopaze and Healey look to build upon a Panther offense that ranked among the top-five in batting average (.290), on-base percentage (.376), slugging percentage (.399), and total bases (766) last season as well.

As a whole, Jordano is pleased with the direction that Pitt is heading toward and noted that team chemistry played a tremendous role impacting the improvements made by the squad. He added that this year’s team has grown to become a cohesive group of players focused on “great things.”

“I feel like we’re in solid shape heading into this season,” Jordano said. “We need players to step up. It’s their time to compete.”

The Panthers, who begin their third season at the state-of-the-art Charles L. Cost Field at the Petersen Sports Complex this spring, are one of three teams to advance to the past four Big East Championships. Since 2000, Pitt has been one of the premier programs in the Northeast winning over 400 games and producing 12 All-Americans, 50 All-Big East honorees and seeing 51 players sign professional contracts.

The future of Pitt baseball also looks bright as the Panthers join the Atlantic Coast Conference in the summer of 2013. Pitt recently signed an impressive 2013 recruiting class and is off to a great start with the 2014 class.

The Panthers open their 2013 season on Friday, Feb. 15, when they travel to Witchita, Kan., to face Witchita State in a three-game series.

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