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Panthers to Host No. 1 Virginia in Conference Clash This Weekend

Joseph Harvey (2-1, 2.91 ERA) has registered 11 strikeouts in his last 14.2 innings of work, allowing no earned runs during that span.

Joseph Harvey (2-1, 2.91 ERA) has registered 11 strikeouts in his last 14.2 innings of work, allowing no earned runs during that span.

April 3, 2014

Pitt (15-13, 7-5 ACC) vs. No. 1 Virginia (25-4, 10-2 ACC)
April 4-6, 2014 • Charles L. Cost Field at the Petersen Sports Complex • Pittsburgh, Pa.

Fri: 3 p.m. | Sat: 3 p.m. | Sun: 1 p.m.

Live Stats: Pitt

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

Series Notes: Pitt 

All-Time Record vs. Virginia: 1-5
First Meeting: 1940 | L, 19-5
Last Meeting: 1981 in Charlottesville, Va. | L, 11-4

PROBABLE PITCHING

Friday: RHP Rhys Aldenhoven (SR/Victoria, Australia) (2-1, 3.79 ERA) vs. LHP Nathan Kirby (5-1, 1.24 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Joseph Harvey (SR/Audobon, Pa.) (2-1, 2.91 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Sborz (3-1, 2.78 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Matt Wotherspoon (SR/Mountain Top, Pa.) (3-3, 6.81 ERA) vs. LHP Brandon Waddell (3-1, 3.76 ERA)

SERIES INFORMATION

SERIES STAKES: Pitt will host No. 1 Virginia in a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series on April 4-6 at Charles L. Cost Field at the Petersen Sports Complex in Pittsburgh, Pa. This weekend’s conference clash marks the seventh all-time meeting between the two programs in a series that dates back to 1940, with the Cavaliers holding the advantage at 5-1. The last time the Panthers faced Virginia was in 1981, when they dropped an 11-4 contest on the road. The Cavaliers, who enter the series on the heels of an eight-game winning streak, currently hold first place in the league’s Coastal Division at 10-2 while sporting the ACC’s best overall record (25-4, .862 winning percentage) on the year. In 2013, Virginia produced a 50-12 showing (.806 winning percentage) and hosted the Charlottesville Super Regional as a No. 1 seed, falling in the bracket’s championship game against Mississippi State, 11-6. The Cavaliers have made 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances since 2004. 

MEET VIRGINIA: Virginia’s pitching staff has proven to be one of the most valiant units in all of NCAA Division-I baseball, owning a top-10 national ranking in team ERA (2.11). The Cavaliers’ arsenal of arms also tops the conference in ERA, wins (25), saves (10) and batting average against (.204), as well as having permitted the fewest runs (68) and earned runs (61) in the ACC. Southpaw Nathan Kirby, Friday’s probable starter, is 5-1 on the year with a 2.78 ERA, .173 batting average against and 37 strikeouts. Josh Sborz, who will toe the rubber Saturday afternoon, has limited his opponents to a team-best .165 batting average against to compliment his 3-1 record and 2.78 ERA. Sunday’s hurler, lefty Brandon Waddell, rounds out Virginia’s rotation boasting a 3-1 mark and 3.76 ERA to go along with 31 strikeouts. The Cavaliers also possess a tremendous asset out of the bullpen in Nick Howard (1.88 ERA), who has converted a conference-leading eight saves as the team’s primary closer. With regards to Virginia’s offensive attack, the Cavaliers have been carried by the likes of Mike Papi, who leads the lineup in batting average (.354), home runs (5), RBI (26) and bases on balls. Five Virginia players entered the 2014 season rated on Baseball America’s Top-100 Prospects List – Derek Fisher (No. 10), Papi (No. 39), Howard (No. 43), Branden Cogswell (No. 47) and Brandon Downes (No. 53).

GAME OF THRONES: On Monday, March 31, the Cavaliers received top-three rankings in all five major collegiate baseball polls. Virginia is slotted at No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (NCBWA), No. 2 in Perfect Game and No. 3 in Baseball America and the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. This weekend’s three-game set will be the first time the Panthers have played the top-ranked team in the country since Feb. 23, 2007, when they fell to No. 1 Vanderbilt, 4-3, in Nashville, Tenn. Current Major League Baseball players Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty and David Price were on that Commodores team. Friday’s contest also marks the first time that Pitt has hosted the nation’s number-one program. The Panthers’ most recent victory against a top-five opponent occurred on April 25, 2004 at No. 4 Notre Dame (W, 8-6) in South Bend, Ind. Pitt has won four consecutive games against teams in ranked in the national polls to contribute to a 4-2 record against top-25 opponents this season. On March 9, the Panthers defeated No. 17 North Carolina, 6-4, in Chapel Hill, N.C., marking the program’s first win against a ranked foe on the road in a decade. Last weekend, Pitt swept No. 23 Georgia Tech at Charles L. Cost Field to establish a program-record six-game home winning streak against top-25 teams. The Panthers, who are 12-13 (.480 winning percentage) against ranked programs since 2009, have also won seven of their last 10 home contests vs. those rated in the top-25 polls.

HOME, SWEET HOME: Pitt, which has won seven of its last 10 games and eight of its last nine at home, will welcome Virginia to Charles L. Cost Field this weekend in the midst of what has become the program’s most impressive home stretch in its 107-year history. The Panthers, who own a 63-21 overall record at Charles L. Cost Field (.750 winning percentage), have won 33 of their last 39 games at home (.846 winning percentage) and 19 of their last 22 (.864 winning percentage). On the season, Pitt has registered an 8-1 record at Charles L. Cost Field (.889 winning percentage), including a pair of conference series sweeps over Duke (March 21-22) and No. 23 Georgia Tech (March 28-30). The Panthers have swept their first two three-game conference series at home for the second time in as many seasons and for the fourth time in program history. Pitt has also won a program-record 19 consecutive conference games at home, in addition to another school record of six straight conference series sweeps at home. The Panthers have not lost a conference match-up at Charles L. Cost Field in 705 calendar days (April 29, 2012 vs. Georgetown, Game 1 | L, 6-3). 

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 62-104 (.373 winning percentage) all-time against current members of the ACC and 44-58 (.431 winning percentage) overall under head coach Joe Jordano. 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). Three ACC programs are currently ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Top-25 Coaches’ Poll – No. 1 Virginia, No. 2 Florida State and No. 15 Clemson.

DYLAN DELIVERING: Dylan Wolsonovich (SO/Ford City, Pa.) has not only provided a defensive presence at shortstop, he has also established himself as a key contributor in the Panthers’ offensive game plan. Nearing career highs in several major offensive categories, Wolsonovich currently leads Pitt in both batting average (.310) and on-base percentage (.417). Wolsonovich has solidified a career-high seven-game hitting streak heading into the weekend, including three multi-hit games. During that stretch, he is batting .458 (11-for-24) with a .567 on-base percentage and a .542 slugging percentage. Wolsonovich has also reached base safely in 11 consecutive contests. To break it down even further, the sophomore infielder has led the team in batting average in the last 10 games (.419, 13-for-31) and five games (6-for-14), respectively, helping to add to a .302 average in ACC play (on top of a team second-best 12 RBI).

BOO IS BOILING: Boo Vazquez (JR/Youngstown, Ohio) was listed at No. 67 on Baseball America’s Top-100 Prospects List heading into the 2014 season, in addition to being named the No. 11 prospect in the ACC by Perfect Game. Such accolades have proven to be worthwhile, as the junior outfielder has compiled quite an impressive campaign through the better part of the year. Vazquez, a 38th round draft selection by the Colorado Rockies in 2012, is batting .274 this season and is tied for first in the conference in RBI (30) and fourth in home runs (5). What may be most impressive about Vazquez is his handling of top-of-the-line pitching, as he holds a .333 batting average (15-for-45) against ACC opponents with a team-leading three home runs and 18 RBI during such games. Over his last 10 appearances, Vazquez has hit two home runs with the most RBI (11) among his teammates during that stretch.

HARVEY AND HARRIS: Harvey and Hobie Harris (JR/McKinney, Texas) have been exceedingly effective on the mound as of late, whiffing batters and limiting the opposition’s chances at run production. In fact, over the past five games, Harvey and Harris have combined for 18 strikeouts and 24.2 innings. What is most astonishing about this diamond duo is their combined earned run average during that stretch – 0.00 ERA. Additionally, Harvey has limited his opponents to a .160 batting average against in the past 14.2 frames worked and Harris has spotted his foes an .091 mark at the plate during 10 innings out of the bullpen. Harris, the ACC’s leader in batting average against this season (.136), tossed 6.2 innings of relief last weekend against No. 23 Georgia Tech in a 4-3 upset victory determined in 13 innings played.

CASEY AT THE BAT: Casey Roche (SR/Downingtown, Pa.) was named a First-Team Preseason All-American by the NCBWA in December after garnering Third-Team All-American honors following his extraordinary junior campaign in 2013. Roche, a 2013 First-Team All-Big East selection, is batting .292 this season with five doubles, two triples, three home runs and a 23 RBI. Over his last 10 games, Roche is batting .341 (14-for-41) with one homer and 10 runs plated, in addition to holding a .537 slugging percentage. Most recently, Roche has registered a .364 batting average (8-for-22) to coincide with 11 total bases in his previous five contests. The slugging senior outfielder is currently ninth in Panthers history in games started (173), eighth in hits (218) and third in RBI (152) during his four-year career at Pitt. 

PLEASE AND VRANKA: Stephen Vranka (SR/Monroeville, Pa.) has been consistently productive at the top of the lineup for Pitt this year. Having reached base safely in 18 straight contests, the senior has chalked up a hit in 14 of his last 16 games and has not been held hitless in consecutive games since Feb. 28 against Ohio State. During his 18-game streak of reaching first without issue, which dates back to March 8, Vranka has had seven multi-hit games, including four games with three or more hits. Vranka is batting .293 on the year with a team-leading 26 runs scored, 22 walks and 13 extra-base hits. 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.

NON-CONFERENCE? NO PROBLEM: Since the start of the 2008 season, Pitt has tallied a 110-65 (.629 winning percentage) against non-conference opponents, including a 22-9 showing (.710 winning percentage) in 2013 and an 8-8 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 6.8 runs per game during non-conference play this season.

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.

PITT IN THE POLLS: The Panthers were ranked in all five major collegiate baseball polls for the first time in program history in 2013, earning its highest ever ranking, No. 16, from the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, a No. 21 ranking by Baseball America and a No. 23 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’, NCBWA and Perfect Game top-25 polls. Pitt’s seven weeks in the polls more than doubled its prior best mark of three weeks set in 2010 and it also held ground in the top-20 for three straight weeks from April 29-May 13. The Panthers finished with a 15-10 record vs. teams ranked or receiving votes in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Preseason Top-40 Poll, including a three-game series sweep over No. 16 Notre Dame and a 12-inning, 7-6 victory against No. 19 Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament on May 24. Most recently, on Monday, March 31, Pitt received votes in the NCBWA Top-25 Poll for the first time this season after sweeping No. 23 Georgia Tech at home. 

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. Defensively, Pitt converted 61 double plays on the season to lead the conference and to tie for 10th nationally. 

- PITT -