March 5, 2014
Pitt (4-5, 0-0 ACC) at No. 17 North Carolina (8-3, 0-0 ACC)
March 7-9, 2014 • Boshamer Stadium • Chapel Hill, N.C.
Fri: 3 p.m. | Sat: 2 p.m. | Sun: 1 p.m.
All-Time Record vs. North Carolina: 0-0
Friday: RHP Matt Wotherspoon (SR/Mountain Top, Pa.) (2-1, 3.63 ERA) vs. RHP Trent Thornton (3-0, 1.33 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Joseph Harvey (JR/Audobon, Pa.) (0-1, 4.66 ERA) vs. RHP Benton Moss (1-1, 2.49 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Rhys Aldenhoven (SR/Victoria, Australia) (1-0, 2.70 ERA) vs. RHP Zac Gallen (1-1, 2.33 ERA)
TOBACCO ROAD TIPS: Pitt will open its eight-game road trip against No. 17 North Carolina this weekend in its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series. The Panthers’ ACC debut also marks the program’s first all-time meeting against the Tar Heels. At 8-3 overall and in second place in the league’s Coastal Division, North Carolina enters conference play riding a seven-game winning streak. The Tar Heels have been powered by their starting rotation through the first 10 games of the 2014 season, with right-handed ace Trent Thornton leading the way with a 3-0 record, 1.33 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 20.1 innings pitched. Benton Moss has registered a 2.49 ERA this year and is coming off of a complete-game performance against North Florida on March 1. Freshman Zac Gallen owns a 2.33 ERA and 15 punch-outs on the back-end as well. Offensively, North Carolina has been anchored by rookie second baseman Wood Myers, who is batting .390 with a .447 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot. Also, Korey Dunbar leads the Tar Heels in both home runs (2) and RBI (9) to go along with a .286 batting average in just 14 total at-bats.
SERIES STAKES: Friday afternoon’s contest marks Pitt’s first game against a top-25 opponent since May 24, 2013, when it defeated No. 19 Seton Hall, 7-6, in 12 innings at the Big East Tournament in Clearwater, Fla. The Panthers went 4-3 against nationally ranked teams last season, including a three-game series sweep over No. 16 Notre Dame on April 12-14 at Charles L. Cost Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. The last time Pitt defeated a top-25 program on the road was on April 17, 2003 when they downed No. 13 Notre Dame, 5-3, in South Bend, Ind. This weekend’s series against the Tar Heels, who were ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks in the polls in 2013, is the first set the Panthers have had facing a No. 1 team from the previous season since playing Miami (FL) during the 2009 season. From 2010-13, Pitt held the third-best winning percentage (.621, 141-86) among Big East teams, trailing only Louisville and Connecticut. The Panthers also owned the fourth most conference wins during that span, going 62-42 (.596 winning percentage). Pitt, which has posted a 79-66 record (.545 winning percentage) away from home since 2010, stands below .500 for the first time since falling to 20-21 with a 6-3 loss to Georgetown on April 29, 2012. The Panthers also enter their conference opener with a losing record for the first time since March 20, 2008 when they were 6-8 overall.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: Pitt officially joined the ACC on July 1, 2013 after spending 29 baseball seasons in the Big East. The Panthers are 55-99 (.357 winning percentage) all-time against current members of the ACC and 37-52 (.419 winning percentage) overall under head coach Joe Jordano (1998-present). The ACC has seen a total of nine programs make regional appearances since 2009, including eight with at least two appearances and six with at least five. The conference has also had the second-most regional appearances (37) and second-most appearances in the College World Series (9) in the past five seasons, with two programs advancing to the collegiate game’s biggest stage in 2013 (North Carolina, a No. 1 national seed, and North Carolina State). Six ACC programs are currently ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Top-25 Coaches’ Poll – No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Virginia, No. 8 North Carolina State, No. 17 North Carolina, No. 20 Clemson and No. 23 Miami (FL).
FORTIFIED AT FORTY-TWO: Pitt set a program record in wins on May 12, 2013 when it defeated Villanova, 10-2, for its 40th victory of the season (also Jordano’s 750th career win) in the Panthers’ final Big East game at Charles L. Cost Field. Pitt finished at 42-17 on the year with an 18-6 conference record, edging the Panthers’ 1995 39-win season and tying their program best in conference wins (originally set in 2010). Last season marked the sixth time in history that Pitt has won 35 or more games (fifth time under Jordano). The Panthers, who swept a program-record eight three-game series in 2013, also posted their best winning percentage (.712) since 1981 (.758, 25-8) to rank 17th in NCAA Division-I baseball. Pitt has held itself at or above .500 in five consecutive seasons (2009-13), two shy of the program record of seven straight seasons (1967-73). The Panthers were one of 35 teams to win at least 40 games last season, placing themselves in the top 11.8 percent at the NCAA Division-I level.
STATISTICAL STANDING: Pitt’s offense ranked seventh nationally in scoring (7.5) and runs (444), 12th in on-base percentage (.403), 16th in slugging percentage (.448) and 20th in home runs (49) last season. In the conference, the Panthers were first in batting average (.302), on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, RBI (394), home runs (by a 20-home run margin over Louisville), total bases (926) and walks (292). Pitt was second in hits (625) and doubles (108), tied for third in triples (23) and fifth in stolen bases (72) as well. The Panthers also placed in the Big East’s top five in ERA (3.59) – the program’s best mark since 1981 (3.20) – strikeouts (349) and batting average against (.258). Defensively, Pitt converted 61 double plays on the season to lead the conference and to tie for 10th nationally.
ALL-AMERICAN HONORS FOR ROCHE: The National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (NCBWA) named Casey Roche (SR/Downingtown, Pa.) a 2014 Preseason First-Team All-American in December after he delivered a team-leading .339 batting average and conference-leading 65 RBI a season ago. Roche, who hit a career best nine home runs in 2013, was also tabbed a Third-Team All-American by the NCBWA following his extraordinary junior campaign. Through nine games this season, the slugging senior outfielder leads the team with two home runs and he is second in slugging percentage with a .444 mark, trailing only Dylan Wolsonovich (SO/Ford City, Pa.) (.448). Roche owns a .328 batting average in 160 career games and he is currently fifth on Pitt’s all-time list in RBI (134) and 13th overall in hits (193).
WOTHERSPOON RETURNS: Wotherspoon was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 20th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft but opted to return for his senior season with the Panthers. Wotherspoon, who has led Pitt in strikeouts in consecutive years, is one of two Panthers in program history to record 85 or more strikeouts in multiple seasons (Billy Muldowney, 2005 & 2006). Last season, the right-handed power pitcher joined former ace Ethan Mildren (2011-13) to become the first duo in Pitt baseball history to log more than 100 innings each (107.0) in the same season and he was also a member of the first weekend rotation in program history to have three starting pitchers with eight or more wins (9). Wotherspoon is sixth on the Panthers’ all-time list in strikeouts (217) and innings pitched (265.2) and he is also tied for fourth in wins (20). He is 2-1 this season with a 3.63 ERA, leading the team in strikeouts (15) and innings (17.1) through three starts.
PANTHER PROSPECTS: Boo Vazquez (JR/Youngstown, Ohio) and Adam Dian (JR/Gibsonia, Pa.) have been named to prospect watch lists by nationally accredited publications this season. Vazquez, a 38th round selection by the Colorado Rockies in 2012, was named the No. 67 prospect on Baseball America’s top-100 list. The 6-foot-4, left-handed hitting junior was also listed as the No. 11 prospect in the ACC by Perfect Game. Dian, a junior transfer from Temple, was recognized by Perfect Game as the ACC’s Top Newcomer in addition to being the No. 17 prospect in the conference. Vazquez currently leads Pitt with nine RBI and he also holds the team’s second-best batting average (.231) among those with at least 30 at-bats. Dian is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA thus far, allowing two earned runs on six hits and one walk through two frames out of the bullpen.
HARVEY HURLING: Harvey made his first career start against East Carolina on March 1, when he opened the game with three perfect innings and finished with three runs allowed over 4.2 frames of work. Harvey served primarily as Pitt’s closer prior to moving into the starting rotation, working a team-best 23 appearances in 2013 and amassing the program’s second most saves (9) all-time. A workhorse by nature, Harvey has established a reputation of longevity as a reliever, most recently by tossing four innings in relief against Fordham on Feb. 23 while allowing just one earned run. Last season, Harvey picked up the winning decision in the Panthers’ victory over No. 19 Seton Hall after recording 5.1 innings out of the bullpen in a 12-inning contest. In 2012, he struck out five batters in 4.1 shutout innings of no-hit baseball against No. 22 Louisville in a 12-inning, 6-5 loss. Harvey is also the only pitcher in Pitt baseball history to record a win and a save on the same day, accomplishing so during a doubleheader against Cincinnati on April 27, 2013. The junior slinger, who owns a 7.34 career strikeout per nine innings ratio, is 0-1 this season with a 4.66 ERA.
RHYS’ GREASE: Aldenhoven, a 2013 transfer, has put together an impressive resume through his first 18 career appearances with the Panthers. Compared to an 8-1 record and 2.76 ERA in 2013, Aldenhoven is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA this season and enters this weekend coming off of a seven-inning, five-strikeout outing against Western Kentucky on March 2. The senior Aussie has also posted the second-best batting average against (.262) on the team among pitchers that have recorded at least five frames of work. Aldenhoven, who strung together the most wins (8) by a first-year player in Pitt baseball history last season, is also 11th on the program’s all-time list in career ERA (2.75).
WOLSONOVICH’S NICHE: Wolsonovich has opened the 2014 season with a formidable display of offensive abilities, leading the Panthers in batting average (.345), on-base percentage (.457), slugging percentage (.448) and hits (10) and he is tied for first in doubles (3). Wolsonovich, who batted .263 with two home runs and 23 RBI in 2013, enters this weekend having recorded a hit in five of the last six games. During the USC-Upstate Tournament on Feb. 21-23, Wolsonovich went 6-for-13 (.462 batting average) with three runs and three RBI, including a 4-for-4 performance in Pitt’s 15-7 victory over Butler.
HOBIE ON THE HILL: Paris J.C. transfer Hobie Harris (JR/McKinney, Texas) is currently tied for third in the ACC in fewest hits allowed (6) and he is fourth overall in batting average against (.128). Harris is 1-1 this season with a team-best 1.98 ERA among qualifying pitchers, recording 14 strikeouts in 13.2 innings out of the bullpen. Each of Harris’ four relief appearances this season have lasted more than 2.2 innings, with the longest outing (4.1) coming on Feb. 16 at Coastal Carolina, where he picked up his first career win. On Feb. 22 against USC-Upstate, Harris tossed three shutout innings of no-hit relief while striking out five batters.
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Newkirk, Mersing Garner First National Bank Weekly Honors