March 20, 2014
Pitt (9-10, 1-5 ACC) vs. Duke (14-7, 4-2 ACC)
March 21-23, 2014 • Charles L. Cost Field at the Petersen Sports Complex • Pittsburgh, Pa.
Fri: 3 p.m. | Sat: 3 p.m. | Sun: 1 p.m.
Series Notes: Pitt (Coming Soon)
All-Time Record vs. Duke: 1-4
Last Meeting: Feb. 15, 2003 in Durham, N.C. | W, 2-1
Friday: RHP Rhys Aldenhoven (SR/Victoria, Australia) (1-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. TBA
Saturday: RHP Joseph Harvey (SR/Audobon, Pa.) (0-1, 5.12 ERA) vs. TBA
Sunday: RHP Matt Wotherspoon (SR/Mountain Top, Pa.) (2-3, 7.81 ERA) vs. TBA
BLUE DEVIL BREAKDOWN: Pitt will host Duke in its first ever Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series at Charles L. Cost Field at the Petersen Sports Complex this weekend on March 21-23. Since the series commenced in 1939, the Panthers have registered a 1-4 all-time record (.200 winning percentage) against the Blue Devils, with Pitt winning the most recent affair, 2-1, on Feb. 15, 2003 in Durham, N.C. Duke, which went 26-29 in 2013 with a 9-21 conference record, has posted a 14-7 overall mark this season and currently holds second place in the Coastal Division with a 4-2 showing during league play. The Blue Devils travel to Pittsburgh, Pa. on the heels of a six-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep over Notre Dame on March 14-15 that featured a 10-inning, 4-3 win and a 1-0 shutout victory. Duke is also coming off of a midweek slate in which they defeated Maryland-Eastern Shore (March 18), 15-7, and Princeton (March 19), 7-1. Earlier this season, the Blue Devils took one out of three games against Virginia, which was ranked No. 1 in the Baseball America Top-25 Poll at the time, in a series that displayed three consecutive one-run outcomes. Boasting the second best ERA in the ACC (2.52), Duke’s pitching staff has been carried by the arms of Andrew Istler (3-2, 0.89 ERA) and James Marvel (2-2, 1.78 ERA). Offensively, the Blue Devils have been led by Jordan Betts, who owns the team’s best batting average (.356) while leading the conference in hits (31) and doubles (11), and Chris Marconcini, who tops Duke in slugging percentage (.591) and RBI (26) with the most home runs (6) in the ACC.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: The Panthers officially joined the ACC on July 1, 2013 after spending 29 baseball seasons in the Big East Conference. Pitt is 56-104 (.350 winning percentage) all-time against current members of the ACC and 38-57 (.400 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 the fourth most conference wins (62-42) among all Big East teams during that span. 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. 10 North Carolina State, No. 13 Clemson, No. 17 North Carolina and No. 25 Miami (FL).
HOME, SWEET HOME: Dating back to its first season at Charles L. Cost Field in 2011, Pitt has manufactured a rather impressive resume at home. The Panthers are 57-20 (.740 winning percentage) all-time at Charles L. Cost Field with a 27-11 showing (.711 winning percentage) against conference opponents. Pitt, which has held itself above .600 in three straight seasons at home, is also 47-16 (.746 winning percentage) in day games and 18-5 (.783 winning percentage) in March meetings at Charles L. Cost Field. The Panthers have won nine of its 13 conference series played at home, with eight series victories resulting in sweeps. Pitt has also won four of its last five games against nationally ranked opponents at home, including a three-game series sweep against No. 16 Notre Dame last season, and they are a perfect 17-0 at Charles L. Cost Field when scoring 10 or more runs. Last season, the Panthers went 25-5 (.833 winning percentage) at home with a 12-0 mark against league foes, batting .313 with 29 home runs and sporting a 2.88 team ERA as well.
TURNING THE PAGE: Pitt has met a handful of ups and downs through the first third of the season after getting off to a 4-1 start to open the year. From Feb. 23-March 8, the Panthers lost six straight contests to match its longest losing streak since 2009 and to fall below .500 for the first time since the 2012 season. Pitt also let go of leads in three consecutive games against Virginia Tech to get swept by the Hokies, beginning with an 11-5 loss on March 14 after leading 5-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. During the series opener in Blacksburg, Va., the Panthers allowed 10 unanswered runs for the first time since April 7, 2010, when Kent State plated 14 runs in the first and second frames of a 19-6 Pitt loss. Furthermore, the Panthers surrendered 10 or more runs in each match-up of a three-game conference series sweep for the first since doing so against Villanova on March 25-26, 1995. The early weeks of the season have withheld several bright spots, however, such as Pitt’s 6-4 win against No. 17 North Carolina on March 9, marking the first time it has defeated a top-25 team on the road since April 17, 2003 at No. 13 Notre Dame. Additionally, the Panthers have thrived during midweek competition, including a two-game sweep against Presbyterian on the road and downing Youngstown State (March 18) and Akron (March 19) earlier this week. Pitt’s 12-1 win over the Penguins was its largest margin of victory (+11) this season. The Panthers also scored 10 or more runs in the first two home games of the year for the first time since doing so against Fordham on March 13-14, 2010 at Trees Field.
SHELINSKY SHINING: Steven Shelinsky, Jr. (SR/Furlong, Pa.), last season’s team leader in home runs (12), has been electric at the plate during his six-game hitting streak that dates back to March 11. During that stretch, which has included five multi-hit games, the slugging senior has topped Pitt with a .520 batting average (13-for-25) and a .920 slugging percentage, including two home runs and 11 of his 12 RBI on the year. After starting the season at a .200 mark (5-for-25) through the Panthers’ first 12 contests, Shelinsky, Jr. has risen in the ranks of several major offensive categories among his teammates. He currently leads Pitt in batting average (.360, tied for the fifth best showing in the ACC), on-base percentage (.476), slugging percentage (.580) and OPS (1.056). Shelinsky, Jr. also holds the team’s second best batting average against conference opponents (.364). He enters this weekend’s series coming off of a 5-for-8 (.625) performance at the plate against Youngstown State (March 18) and Akron (March 19) during midweek competition.
BOO IS BOILING: Boo Vazquez (JR/Youngstown, Ohio), named the No. 11 prospect in the ACC by Perfect Game and the No. 67 prospect in the country by Baseball America, continues to improve his power and proficiency at the plate for the Panthers. The 38th round selection by the Colorado Rockies in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft currently owns Pitt’s best batting average among players that have recorded at least 60 plate appearances (.293). He is also first on the team in home runs (4) and RBI (21) and second in hits (22) and runs scored (16). Vazquez, who has hit a home run in three of his last four games, is tied for fourth in the ACC in four-bag blasts in addition to being fifth in the conference in RBI. The 6-foot-4, left-handed hitting junior has posted multi-hit performances in three of his last four games as well, including a 4-for-5, one home run and four RBI game against Virginia Tech on March 15. Since March 14, Vazquez has batted .400 with a team-leading eight hits, three home runs, nine RBI and seven runs scored. Last season, Vazquez batted .396 (36-for-91) with one home run and 18 RBI at Charles L. Cost Field.
CASEY AT THE BAT: Casey Roche (SR/Downingtown, Pa.) was named a First-Team Preseason All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association in December after garnering Third-Team All-American honors following his extraordinary junior campaign in 2013. Roche, who is batting .289 with two home runs and 15 RBI this season, has registered a hit in six of his last seven games and nine of his past 11. The 2013 First-Team All-Big East selection’s recent offensive surge was sparked by a 3-for-5, five-RBI performance against Presbyterian on March 11. Since then, he has posted a .423 batting average (11-for-26) and a .531 on-base percentage. Roche has also been impressive during midweek play against Presbyterian, Youngstown State and Akron during the last two weeks, leading the team in batting average (.538) and owning the second best on-base percentage (.647) during those games. In addition to being tied for the most career home runs at Charles L. Cost Field (8), the senior outfielder batted .356 (42-for-118) with six home runs and 29 RBI at home last season. Roche holds a .329 career batting average in 169 offensive appearances and is ranked third on the program’s all-time list in RBI (144) and 11th in hits (207).
VRANKA VALIDATED: Stephen Vranka (SR/Monroeville, pa.), who has reached base safely in nine consecutive contests, rides a seven-game hitting streak heading into this weekend’s three-game set against the Blue Devils. The senior center fielder’s seven-game hitting streak, during which he has batted a remarkable .405, started with a 7-for-13 showing against Presbyterian on March 11-12, including a 4-for-7, one home run and six RBI performance against the Blue Hose in the series’ second meeting. During the streak, Vranka has had five multi-hit games, allowing him to pull his average up from .174 to a .277 season mark. He now leads Pitt in hits (23), runs (18), walks (13) and extra-base hits (9) and he is also second on the team in RBI (16). Furthermore, Vranka leads the ACC with four triples, with three of those three-baggers coming on March 15 during a doubleheader at Virginia Tech. Vranka has pulled himself into second place on the program’s all-time list in career triples (14), four shy of Ben Copeland’s (2003-05) record of 18.
HAVE A DAY, MATTY JAY: Matt Johnson (JR/Plano, Texas), a Paris Junior College transfer, has proven his worth at the plate through the first third of the 2014 season. Johnson, who is batting .288 with second best on-base percentage (.400) on the team, has batted .393 (11-for-28) with a .526 on-base percentage since going 2-for-2 against No. 17 North Carolina on March 9. Riding a three-game hitting streak, Johnson has recorded a hit in seven of his last eight games and he has also drawn a base on balls in five of his last six contests. The junior second baseman has also had a career week against Youngstown State and Akron, reaching first safely a total of eight times in his last two games. Johnson notched four hits and drove in four runs while leading the team with an .800 batting average and a .889 on-base percentage this week.
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.
NON-CONFERENCE? NO PROBLEM: Since the start of the 2008 season, Pitt has tallied a 110-62 (.640 winning percentage) against non-conference opponents, including a 22-9 showing (.710 winning percentage) in 2013 and an 8-5 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 7.3 runs per game during non-conference play this season.
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