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Feb. 16, 2017

Pitt Game Notes | Ohio State Game Notes | Kansas State Game Notes

PITTSBURGH
– Head Coach Joe Jordano will get his 20th season as the University of Pittsburgh skipper underway this weekend, as the Panthers kick off their 2017 campaign at the Sunshine State Classic in Kissimmee, Fla.


The Panthers will square off reigning Big 10 Champion Ohio State as well as Kansas State and Delaware in the three-day tournament at Osceola Heritage Park, the former home of the Houston Astros spring training program.

HOW TO FOLLOW

LEADING OFF
The University of Pittsburgh baseball team opens the season this weekend in Kissimmee, Fla., competing in the Sunshine State Classic with reigning Big 10 champion Ohio State as well as Kansas State and Delaware. The Panthers open the tournament on Friday in a 3:30 p.m. tilt with the Blue Hens before a tough test on Saturday, taking on Kansas State at 11 a.m. and Ohio State at 5 p.m. Pitt will close things out on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the series finale with Delaware.


SCOUTING DELAWARE
Despite a 30-win season, the Blue Hens faltered in conference play, going 10-14 in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play, narrowly missing the conference tournament.


Delaware returns its top five hitters from the 2016 season in Jordan Glover (.360), Kyle Baker (.346), Nick Tierno (.340), Kevin Mohollen (.298) and Jeremy Ake (.296). Just two Blue Hens were consistently in the starting rotation last season, as Brandon Walter and Ron Marinaccio will return for the 2017 campaign.  Walter posted an ERA of 3.63 to lead all starters, earning the call in 14 games. Marinaccio also made 14 starts on the year, recording an ERA of 5.18.

SERIES WITH DELAWARE
Taking on the Blue Hens in the opening and closing games of opening weekend, the outings will be the first-ever between the two programs.


SCOUTING KANSAS STATE
It was a down season for the Wildcats, as the 2016 squad finished 26-31 overall, competing to a mark of 8-16 in Big 12 play. They were eliminated from the conference tournament after back-to-back losses to nationally-ranked Texas Tech and Oklahoma in the opening two games of play. The selection to the Big 12 Tournament was the ninth in 10 seasons for the Wildcats, as their season came to an end in Oklahoma City.


Kansas State returns a considerable amount of talent to the 2017 roster, as three of their top five hitters will lace up once again. Leading the offense, Jake Scudder hit .333 last season and will return at 1B for his senior season. With the graduations of Clayton Dalrymple (.325) and Tyler Moore (.321), Jake Wodtke (.301) and Josh Rolette (.290) will return as some of the top hitters from the 2016 season. On the mound, Kansas State loses two of its starting three in Levi MaVorhis and Corey Fischer. MaVorhis signed as an undrafted free agent after making 14 starts with a 4.20 ERA while Fischer, who also made 14 starts, tossed a 5.37 ERA. Parker Rigler will be the only starter to return to the rotation, as he made 15 appearances (14 starts), recording a 4.89 ERA.

SERIES WITH KANSAS STATE
In the first game of a doubleheader, the Panthers will square off with the Wildcats for the second time in program history, in a series dating back to the 2015 season. Kansas State won the inaugural matchup by a score of 7-0 on Feb. 14 of that season at the Snowbirds Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla.


SCOUTING OHIO STATE
Claiming their ninth Big 10 title in program history, the Buckeyes stormed through the conference tournament, claiming a win against heated rival Michigan before falling to Iowa and having the third game of the tournament postponed in the opening days of the championship. The Buckeyes would rattle off four straight wins over Michigan, Michigan State (2) and Iowa en route to the championship, earning an automatic qualification to the NCAA Baseball Championship.


Earning a draw to Louisville as the second seed in the regional, the Buckeyes were winners in game one over Wright State before being bounced by host and top-seeded Louisville.

The Buckeyes lost their top six starting hitters from the 2016 season, with Tre’ Gantt leading all returners, smacking a .255 clip with 35 hits, including eight doubles, and 13 RBIs. On the bump, Ohio State lost its top two starters, returning Ryan Feltner and Adam Niemeyer to the starting rotation. All three of the Buckeyes’ All-Big 10 selections have graduated or left for the MLB Draft, as Dawson was selected in the second round, Nick Sergakis was selected in the 23rd round and Tanner Tully was taken in the 26th round. 

SERIES WITH OHIO STATE
A one-game tilt with the Buckeyes will be the 22nd all-time meeting between the regional foes in a series dating back to the 1942 season. The Buckeyes hold a 20-1-0 advantage, as Ohio State claimed an 11-8 win in a 13-innning shootout at last season’s Historic Dodgertown Classic.


WHO’S STREAKING
Frank Maldonado and David Yanni carry over the longest hit-streaks from the 2016 season, each having a three-game mark. First baseman Caleb Parry also carries over a one-game mark. 


Maldonado’s five-game reached-base streak is the longest of any active Panther, followed by Yanni’s four games. Parry, Yaya Chentouf and P.J. DeMeo each have a one-game mark.

YOUNG GUNS
The Panthers will be a young squad for the 2017 season, as Pitt saw the departure of six starting position players and four pitchers with at least 10 appearances. All-ACC shortstop Charles Leblanc was selected by the Texas Rangers in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB First Year Player Draft, producing a need for David Yanni to make the move to lead the infield.


In addition, with the losses of Alex Kowalczyk, Nick Yarnall, Ronnie Sherman, Aaron Schnurbusch and Matt Johnson, the Panthers will look to Yanni as well as Frank Maldonado, Caleb Parry, Jacob Wright and Manny Pazos as the returning starters on the field.

A slew of newcomers could see considerable playing time this season as Zach Zientarski, Nico Popa, Alex Amos and Kaylor Kulina will all compete for game action.

On the bump, the weekend rotation suffered a big hit with the losses of T.J. Zeuch and Aaron Sandefur. The bullpen also said goodbye to relief hurler Garrett Wrambel, but is aided by Cape League All-Star Isaac Mattson as well as All-Freshman ACC honoree Yaya Chentouf.

Josh Falk and Sam Mersing will lead the staff as the only two pitchers with considerable starting experience this season, as Tyler Garbee and Collin Liberatore will look to contribute more after solid freshman campaigns and Josh Mitchell will look to take on an expanded role.

With the losses of Derek West and Blair Calvo to season-ending injuries, the pitching staff will be forced to rely on freshmen and transfers, but welcome the return of Matt Pidich, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two seasons with Pitt due to injury.

ACC TOURNAMENT EXPANDS
The ACC announced the expansion of the league tournament in October, as 12 teams will now compete for the conference title in May. The tournament, which will be held in Lexington, KY, added two more teams to the mix as last season, all 10 teams in the conference tournament received bids to the NCAA tournament.


The event will feature four days of pool play, leading to a four-team single-elimination bracket to determine the league champion. The top teams from both the Atlantic and Coastal divisions, determined by conference winning percentages, and the next 10 teams with the best conference winning percentages regardless of division will be selected to compete in the championship. The two division champions will automatically be seeded number one and two based on winning percentage in overall conference competition. The remaining teams will be seeded numbers three through 12 based on winning percentage in overall conference competition without regard to division.

JORDANO’S 20TH
The 2017 season will mark skipper Joe Jordano’s 20th-year at the helm of the Panthers. Jordano had his most successful season since joining the ACC, going 25-26 last year, led by ACC batting champion Charles Leblanc and starting pitcher T.J. Zeuch, the Panthers had four All-ACC honorees. Zeuch was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 21st overall selection, the highest pick in Pitt baseball history.


Jordano, who enters his 30th season coaching at the NCAA Division I level, sits 24th all-time in victories by active coaches. The Erie, Pa., native has an 819-584-2 career record and a 536-466-2 split with the Panthers.

A REPUTABLE SLATE
Pitt possesses a quality schedule this year, as they will face off against nine 2016 NCAA qualifiers, as well as a pair of super regional teams and a College World Series squad. Pitt will open the season in a tournament featuring a pair of power five schools in Ohio State and Kansas State, in addition to Delaware.


The schedule features mid-week home-and-homes against premier rivals West Virginia and Penn State as well as nearby Kent State. Pitt has 30 conference games in total on the slate. ACC schools that will be visiting Charles L. Cost field are Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and NC State.

MAKING OF A TEAM
Pitt’s roster of 31 players is composed of seven states and one province. Pennsylvania is the most common state featured, providing 15 players for the Panthers. The second most common state is Florida with eight players. Two players each hail from Virginia and New Jersey, while California, Kansas and Indiana are each the home of one. Freshman pitcher RJ Freure is the lone international product, hailing from Burlington, Ontario. However, it’s worth noting that senior catcher Manny Pazos was born in Cuba before relocating to Miami, Fla.


Twenty-three players joined the Panthers out of high school, while eight were brought to Pitt via transfer.

NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP
Always one of the toughest conferences in collegiate baseball, the ACC is again loaded with talent this season. With all 10 ACC Tournament teams selected to the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the conference provides stiff competition for the young Panther squad, who was predicted to finish seventh in their division and 14th in the league in the annual preseason coaches poll.


Last season, Pitt was sixth in the Coastal Division and 13th in the league, finishing with a record of 10-18 in conference action. The record boasted wins over nationally-ranked squads in North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Florida State and eventual ACC Champion, Clemson.

Pitt’s 2017 lineup won’t be any easier as they’ll kick off league play with preseason No. 8/8 Louisville. Also on tap for Pitt in conference play, 2015 National Champion Virginia, No. 18/21 Miami, No. 12/9 North Carolina and No. 10/6 North Carolina State. 

UP NEXT
The Panthers return to the Sunshine State next week, hosting Siena in a three-game series at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. Pitt will then travel to Spartanburg, S.C. for the USC Upstate Tournament, taking on Wofford, USC Upstate and Wright State. The following week will kick off ACC play as Pitt gets right into the thick of things, traveling to preseason No. 8/8 Louisville for a three-game tilt.


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Jordano Opens 20th Season at Sunshine State Classic

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