Eric Hess is batting .421 (8-for-19) during his five-game hitting streak.
March 26, 2014
Pitt (12-11, 4-5 ACC) vs. No. 23 Georgia Tech (15-10, 5-4 ACC)
March 28-30, 2014 • Charles L. Cost Field at the Petersen Sports Complex • Pittsburgh, Pa.
Fri: 5:30 p.m. | Sat: 3 p.m. | Sun: 1 p.m.
Series Notes: Pitt
All-Time Record: 0-0
Friday: RHP Rhys Aldenhoven (SR/Victoria, Australia) (2-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Heddinger (1-1, 4.38 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Joseph Harvey (SR/Audobon, Pa.) (1-1, 3.81 ERA) vs. LHP Devin Stanton (1-0, 3.68 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Matt Wotherspoon (SR/Mountain Top, Pa.) (2-3, 7.76 ERA) vs. RHP Matthew Grimes (3-0, 3.57 ERA)
TAKING ON TECH: Pitt hosts No. 23 Georgia Tech this weekend for the first-ever meeting between the two schools in their nearly 260 years of combined baseball history. The Yellow Jackets are playing well, and had won eight of their last 10 before dropping Tuesday’s contest to Mercer, 4-1. Tech has also won two consecutive series against ACC opponents, taking two of three from both Miami and North Carolina, ranked No. 22 and No. 13, respectively, at the time. Offensively, the Yellow Jackets are nearly equal to the Panthers in production (148 versus 142 runs). Table-setter Danny Spingola leads the team in runs scored (23) and is tied for sixth in the league with eight swipes in nine tries. Former walk-on Thomas Smith’s .349 batting average and .450 on-base percentage are both in the ACC’s top-10, and along with Mott Hyde (.472 slugging percentage, 19 RBI), powers the offense. Jonathan King (2-0, 1.96 ERA) and Cole Pitts (1-0, 3.18 ERA) lead Georgia Tech’s starting rotation, but Dusty Isaacs’ 11 appearances out of the ‘pen have yielded the most decisions on the staff (4-3, 2.25 ERA). Sam Clay’s 0.61 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 14.2 innings make him a go-to reliever to preserve a lead.
BROOM FOR THE BLUE DEVILS: ACC baseball was ushered into Pittsburgh with a three-game sweep of Duke last weekend in the Panthers’ first-ever home series in their new league, extending their streak of consecutive conference victories at Charles L. Cost Field to 15. The series concluded a week that saw Pitt start its home schedule a perfect 5-0 for the first time since 2012. Opening with wins over Youngstown State and Akron, the Panthers 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. After rocky play to open March this year, Pitt has rebounded to post victories in five of its last six and eight of its last 12 games. Beating the Panthers at home is a tough assignment regardless, even for the nation’s best teams. Pitt has 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. Overall, Pitt is 9-13 versus top-25 opponents since 2009, and 1-2 this season after defeating North Carolina, 6-4, on March 9th.
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 59-104 (.369 winning percentage) all-time against current members of the ACC and 41-58 (.414 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. 1 Florida State, No. 3 Virginia, No. 20 Clemson, No. 23 Georgia Tech No. 24 North Carolina and No. 25 North Carolina State
BOO WHO?: 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 is at his best when the competition is the toughest, with roughly half of his offensive production coming in only the nine ACC games of the 23 games played overall so far by the Panthers. In conference play, Vazquez leads the Panthers in virtually every offensive category to include home runs (2), batting average (.371), RBI (13), and slugging percentage (.543). While his offense power and consistency are impressive, perhaps most impressive is the discipline he brings to each at-bat, even with top talent on the mound. In nine ACC games (35 at-bats), the slugger Vazquez has struck out only four times while drawing five walks (.429 on-base percentage).
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 60-20 (.750 winning percentage) all-time at Charles L. Cost Field with a 30-11 mark (.731 winning percentage) against conference opponents. Pitt, which has held itself above .600 in three straight seasons at home, is also 49-16 (.754 winning percentage) in day games and 23-5 (.821 winning percentage) in March meetings at Charles L. Cost Field. The Panthers have won 10 of its 14 conference series played at home, with nine series victories resulting in sweeps, 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.
PLEASE AND VRANKA: Stephen Vranka (SR/Monroeville, Pa.), has been consistently productive at the top of the lineup for Pitt his year. Having reached base safely in 13 consecutive contests, the senior has chalked up a hit in 13 of the last 16 games and has not been held hitless in consecutive games since Feb. 28 against Ohio State. When the calendar flipped to March, the Panther centerfielder turned up the heat as he posted a .333 average in 16 games to kick-start the Panther offense from the leadoff spot. Heading into this weekend’s action with Georgia Tech, Vranka leads the club in runs (21) and extra-base hits (11). 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.
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 is always dangerous lurking in the heart of the Panther lineup, but perhaps never more so than heading into this weekend. The senior right fielder is batting .333 (5-of-15) at home this season with five runs and four RBI at Charles L. Cost Field in only four games played, and has accounted for six runs and six RBI in the past five games alone. He has tallied a hit in 12 of his last 15 games, and has not come up empty at the plate in consecutive games since Feb 23 against Fordham. Of course, this is nothing new for Roche, who has made picking up RBI his business from the start. He presently sits in sole possession of third most RBI of all-time in Pitt baseball history with 148 after adding 19 so far in the 2014 season.
CORNER CONTRIBUTERS: Eric Hess (JR/Erie, Pa.) has overcome a slow start to the 2014 campaign to become an offensive force for the Panthers. His .297 season batting average is tied for second-highest on the squad and he is presently riding a five-game hitting streak. In fact, over the past five games, he was quite possibly the hottest Panther hitter as he went eight for 19 (.421 average) at the dish. The first baseman has hit safely in five straight games, adding a double and four RBI while posting a .429 on-base percentage as Pitt went 4-1 in concert with his hot streak. On the opposite corner of the infield, Jordan Frabasilio (JR/Chandler, Ariz.) may have brought some of his home southwest heat with him to Pittsburgh. The third baseman matched Hess at the plate, going eight for 19 as well over the past five contests, and has even only just edged Hess by hitting safely in six consecutive games. No Panther has been swinging a heavier bat in recent days, as he’s slugged a cool .632 over that stretch leading into this weekend’s series.
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 110-63 (.636 winning percentage) against non-conference opponents, including a 22-9 showing (.710 winning percentage) in 2013 and an 8-6 mark this year. The Panthers have won 15 or more non-conference games in each of the past five seasons. 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 seven runs per game during non-conference play this season.