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Pitt Travels to Virginia Tech This Weekend for ACC Series

Stephen Vranka went 7-for-13 with one home run and six RBI during Pitt's midweek series against Presbyterian.

Stephen Vranka went 7-for-13 with one home run and six RBI during Pitt's midweek series against Presbyterian.

March 13, 2014

Pitt (7-7, 1-2 ACC) at Virginia Tech (6-8-1, 0-3 ACC)
March 14-16, 2014 • English Field • Blacksburg, Va.

Fri: 5:30 p.m. | Sat: 2 p.m. | Sun: 1 p.m.

ESPN3 Feed: http://espn.go.com/watchespn
Live Stats: http://www.hokiesports.com

Twitter/Media Relations: @PittBaseballACC
Twitter/Coaching Staff: @PITTBASEBALL

Series Notes: Pitt

All-Time Record vs. Virginia Tech: 11-8
All-Time Record at Virginia Tech: 5-1

Last Meeting: Feb. 24, 2008 in Conway, S.C. | W, 12-8

PROBABLE PITCHING

Friday: RHP Rhys Aldenhoven (SR/Victoria, Australia) (1-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. TBA
Saturday: RHP Joseph Harvey (SR/Audobon, Pa.) (0-1, 5.28 ERA) vs. TBA
Sunday: RHP Matt Wotherspoon (SR/Mountain Top, Pa.) (2-2, 6.14 ERA) vs. TBA

SERIES INFORMATION

HUNTING HOKIES: Pitt, which has posted an 82-68 record (.547 winning percentage) away from home since 2010, will take on Virginia Tech in a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series this weekend on March 14-16 at English Field in Blacksburg, Va. Since the series commenced in 1980, the Panthers have registered an 11-8 all-time record (.579 winning percentage) against the Hokies, including a 5-6 slate (.833 winning percentage) on the road. The last meeting between the two programs came on Feb. 24, 2008, when Pitt defeated Virginia Tech, 10-8, on neutral turf in Conway, S.C. The Panthers have never lost a three-game set to the Hokies, taking two out of three games in three straight seasons from 2001-03 and sweeping Virginia Tech in 2004 when both teams were members of the Big East Conference. Dating back to the 2003 season, Pitt has averaged 10.5 runs per game in wins against the Hokies compared to just three runs per game in losses.

BLACKSBURG BREAKDOWN: Virginia Tech owns a 6-8-1 record (.433 winning percentage) this season and it is 0-3 during conference play, falling to No. 15 Clemson in a series sweep on March 7-9. The Hokies went 40-22 (.645 winning percentage) in 2013 to secure a No. 1 seed in the Blacksburg Regional, where they lost to Oklahoma, 10-4, in the regional final. Virginia Tech, which has lost six of its past eight games, enters this weekend coming off of an 11-inning, 10-10 tie at Richmond and a 21-14 loss to VCU at home during midweek competition. Despite its 5.99 team ERA, the arm of senior right-handed pitcher Brad Markey has carried the Hokies’ pitching staff. Markey is 2-2 on the year with a team-best 2.56 ERA, striking out 25 batters in 24.1 innings of work while limiting opponents to a .245 batting average. Additionally, Markey’s 25:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is tied for the third-best mark in the nation. Offensively, Virginia Tech’s primary offensive threat has been the left-handed hitting Brendon Hayden, who boasts a .259 batting average to compliment his three home runs and 18 RBI through 15 games played. Freshman outfielder Saige Jenco has also been a dominant force for the Hokies as he holds an impressive .515 on-base percentage that comes as a result of being second in the NCAA in bases on balls (22). Jenco also tops the Hokies in both steals (9) and runs scored (13).

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: The Panthers officially joined the ACC on July 1, 2013 after spending 29 baseball seasons in the Big East. Pitt is 56-101 (.357 winning percentage) all-time against current members of the ACC and 38-54 (.413 winning percentage) overall under head coach Joe Jordano (1998-present). From 2010-13, the Panthers posted the third-best winning percentage (.621, 141-86) and fourth-most conference wins (62-42) among all Big East teams during that time. 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 Baseball America Top-25 Poll – No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Virginia, No. 5 North Carolina State, No. 13 Miami (FL), No. 14 Clemson and No. 19 North Carolina.

CHAPEL HILL CHALLENGE: Last weekend, the Panthers played their first-ever league set as a member of the ACC against No. 17 North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Pitt dropped the first two games of the series, falling in the opener by an 8-5 score and 2-1 in the nightcap. Despite getting swept in the Saturday doubleheader, the Panthers witnessed several impressive outings by the back-end of its starting rotation, beginning with Aldenhoven’s performance (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 SO) in the second game of the series. Harvey placed Pitt in a favorable position Sunday afternoon by recording three strikeouts in 4.2 frames and Hobie Harris (JR/McKinney, Texas) (2-1, 1.50 ERA) closed the door in the 6-4 win, tossing 2.1 innings of no-hit relief. The Panthers’ first victory as an ACC program was also the first time they defeated a top-25 team on the road since April 17, 2003, when they downed No. 13 Notre Dame, 5-3, in South Bend, Ind. Furthermore, it was the first time Pitt beat a No. 1 team from previous season since topping Notre Dame, 7-4, on April 11, 2002.

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. In 2013, Roche garnered honors such as being named to the Rawlings/ABCA All-Region First Team as well as being named the NCBWA District I Player of the Year. Through 14 games this season, the slugging senior outfielder is tied for the most home runs (2), RBI (12) and hits (15) on the team. Roche owns a .327 batting average in 165 career games and he is currently fourth on Pitt’s all-time list in RBI (141) and 12th overall in hits (200).

POWER OF THE ‘PEN: Harris and Jon Danielczyk (SR/Erie, Pa.) have been stalwarts in relief as of late, blanking opponents while limiting their production in each of their individual and collective outings. Harris has proved to be a dominant force on the mound in his rookie season with the Panthers, owning a 2-1 record and 1.50 ERA on the season. Six of Harris’ relief appearances have lasted more than two innings and three have lasted for more than three frames, with the longest outing (4.1 IP) coming on Feb. 16 at Coastal Carolina. On Feb. 22 against USC-Upstate, Harris tossed three shutout innings of no-hit relief while striking out five batters. He also pitched 4.1 shutout innings against nationally ranked North Carolina last weekend, including 2.1 innings of no-hit baseball on March 9 in a 6-4 victory. Danielczyk (1-0, 2.45 ERA) thrived during each of his midweek appearances this week, combining for five strikeouts in 5.1 frames and allowing no earned runs in each game against Presbyterian.

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, who owns a .255 batting average, is currently leading Pitt in RBI (12) and he has also recorded the second-most hits (14) on the team as well. Dian owns a 1-1 record and 4.76 ERA thus far, striking out five batters in 5.2 innings.

VRANKA VALIDATED: Stephen Vranka (SR/Monroeville, Pa.) pulled himself out of a slump with a 7-for-13 overall performance in two games against Presbyterian this week, raising his batting average (.254) by 80 points in the process. During the Panthers’ midweek set against the Blue Hose, Vranka led the team with a .538 batting average, .923 slugging percentage, seven hits and six RBI while also recording two doubles and a home run. On Wednesday, Vranka went 4-for-7 on the day with one home run and a career-high six RBI and he also drove in the game-winning run with two outs in the top of the 11th frame. Vranka currently leads Pitt in walks (11) and runs scored (13).

‘SPOON ON SUNDAY: Wotherspoon will be moved to the Sunday role in the Panthers’ starting rotation for this weekend’s series at Virginia Tech. Wotherspoon, who 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. He has led Pitt in strikeouts in consecutive years and 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 to have three starting pitchers with eight or more wins (9). Wotherspoon is sixth on the Panthers’ all-time list in strikeouts (219) and innings pitched (270.1) and he is also tied for fourth in wins (20).-

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 in Pittsburgh, Pa. 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.

NON-CONFERENCE? NO PROBLEM: Since the start of the 2008 season, Pitt has tallied a 108-62 record (.635 winning percentage) against non-conference opponents, including a 22-9 showing (.710 winning percentage) in 2013 and a 6-5 mark this year. The Panthers have won 15 or more non-conference games in each of the past five seasons and have not fallen below a .615 percentage during that stretch. Pitt has also won nine consecutive non-conference three-game sets dating back to 2005, with five series resulting in sweeps. The Panthers, who totaled 7.9 runs per game against out-of-league opponents in 2013, are averaging 6.5 runs per game during non-conference play this season.