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Panthers to Travel to No. 20 Miami (FL) for ACC Series

Eric Hess, Pitt's season leader in batting (.302), also bests the team with a .364 batting average against conference opponents.

Eric Hess, Pitt's season leader in batting (.302), also bests the team with a .364 batting average against conference opponents.

April 9, 2014

Pitt (16-16, 8-7 ACC) at No. 20 Miami (FL) (22-12, 11-4 ACC)
April 11-13 • Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field • Coral Gables, Fla.

Fri: 7 p.m. | Sat: 7 p.m. | Sun: 12 p.m.

Live Stats: http://www.pittsburghpanthers.com
Radio: 560 WQAM (Friday & Sunday), WVUM 90.5 (Saturday)

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

Series Notes: Pitt

All-Time Record vs. Miami (FL): 0-3
First Meeting: March 7, 2001 | L, 6-2
Last Meeting: March 11, 2009 | L, 11-6

PROBABLE PITCHING

Friday: RHP Rhys Aldenhoven (SR/Victoria, Australia) (2-2, 3.52 ERA) vs. LHP Chris Diaz (5-0, 2.45 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Joseph Harvey (SR/Audobon, Pa.) (2-1, 2.41 ERA) vs. LHP Andrew Suarez (4-1, 3.09 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Matt Wotherspoon (SR/Mountain Top, Pa.) (3-4, 5.96 ERA) vs. LHP Bryan Radziewski (2-2, 4.02 ERA)

SERIES INFORMATION

WHO ARE `U?': Pitt will travel to No. 20 Miami (FL) for a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) series on April 11-13 at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, Fla. This weekend's conference clash marks the fourth all-time meeting between the two programs in a series that dates back to 2001, with the Hurricanes holding the advantage at 3-0. The last time the Panthers faced Miami (FL) was on March 11, 2009, when they dropped an 11-6 contest on neutral turf. The Hurricanes entered the week's conference slate boasting a 22-12 overall record and 11-4 showing in the ACC, in addition to an nine-game winning streak. This weekend's series against Miami (FL) is the team's third-straight weekend competing against a ranked opponent.

GAME OF THRONES: Pitt has gone 5-4 against top-25 teams this season, most recently defeating No. 1 Virginia, 2-1, in a walk-off victory at Charles L. Cost Field on April 5. The upset win marked the first time in program history that the Panthers topped the nation's top-ranked program, and it was also Pitt's first victory against a top-five team since outlasting No. 4 Notre Dame, 8-6, on April 25, 2004 in South Bend, Ind. The Panthers previously posted a season-high four-game winning streak against nationally-ranked opponents. On March 9, Pitt 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. On March 28-30, the Panthers swept No. 23 Georgia Tech at home to establish a program-record six-game home winning streak against top-25 teams. Dating back to the 2009 season, Pitt is 13-15 (.464 winning percentage) against teams slotted in the national polls.

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 63-106 (.373 winning percentage) all-time against current members of the ACC and 45-60 (.429 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 period. 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). Four ACC programs are currently ranked in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's Top-25 Poll - No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Virginia, No. 20 Miami (FL) and No. 22 Clemson.

PROMISING PITCHING: Since sweeping Duke in three-games at home on March 22, Pitt has gone 4-6, but its pitching staff has maintained a 2.74 ERA over the last 10 contests. The Panthers' latest shortcomings may be attributed to a variety of reasons, but one that stands out most is their opponents' matching 2.97 ERA during that stretch. Regardless, Pitt has seen quality starts from its staff in six of the past eight games and it has also witnessed seven-plus inning outings in five of the last eight games played. Additionally, the Panthers have six pitchers working with sub-3.00 ERAs. On March 15, Pitt's team ERA was at a season-high 5.24, but over the last 15 outings that number has been reduced to 3.98 (-1.26). Such a decrease can be paralleled to what was observed in 2013, when the Panthers' transitioned from a 4.50 ERA in 2012 to a 3.59 the season after, the program's sixth-largest season-to-season decrease in ERA over the past 30 seasons. What is most impressive about the 2014 pitching staff is its ability to compete with the best arms in the country. Pitt's stable of arms has posted a 1.33 ERA (27 IP, 4 ER) in the last three games played against nationally-ranked opponents. Furthermore, the Panthers have a 1.50 ERA (54 IP, 9 ER) in their last six games and 1.90 ERA (71 IP, 15 ER) in their last eight games against top-25 teams this season.

AUSSIE AUTOMATIC: Rhys Aldenhoven (SR/Victoria, Australia) has been Pitt's most consistent starting pitcher over the past two seasons, boasting the 16th-best career ERA (3.02) in program history during that span. On the year, Aldenhoven has produced a 3.52 ERA and 2-2 record while striking out 32 batters in 46 innings pitched. Aldenhoven, who has allowed just six earned runs in his last 18 innings of work (3.00 ERA), has registered a 3.18 ERA against nationally-ranked opponents in 2014, in addition to a 5.82 strikeouts per nine innings ratio against top-25 teams. Last season, Aldenhoven garnered Second Team All-Big East honors after posting a 2.76 ERA and tying for the most wins (8) and games started (14) ever by a first-year player in Panthers history.

HARVEY HURLING: On March 1, Joseph Harvey (JR/Audobon, Pa.) made the transition from closer to starting pitcher, and he has since grown to become a staple of Pitt's weekend rotation. Harvey, who leads all starters with a 2.41 ERA (ninth in the ACC) and .226 batting average against, has posted a 2-1 record this season to go along with 29 strikeouts over 41 frames on the bump. In his career, Harvey is 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA (33 IP, 4 ER) against nationally-ranked opponents with zero earned runs allowed in seven of those eight appearances. The third-year gunslinger enters this weekend's series at No. 20 Miami (FL) boasting a streak of 22.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run (dating back to March 15 at Virginia Tech), tied with Ethan Mildren (March 24-April 6, 2012) for the longest such streak over the past three seasons. Previously known for his longevity as a bullpen workhorse, Harvey has most recently tallied back-to-back outings of seven-plus stanzas, including a career-high eight shutout innings against No. 23 Georgia Tech on March 29. Last weekend, Harvey allowed one unearned run on two hits in a seven-inning outing against No. 1 Virginia, playing an integral role in Pitt's 2-1 upset victory over the Cavaliers at Charles L. Cost Field.

`SPOON IN SYNC: Matt Wotherspoon (SR/Mountain Top, Pa.) was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 20th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft but opted to return to the Panthers' weekend rotation to compete in his senior season with the team. Although a 2-3 record and 7.76 ERA (31.1 IP, 27 ER) plagued Wotherspoon through his first six starts of the year, his past two outings have been reminiscent of his previous form as a dominant force among Pitt's arsenal of arms. Tossing two straight season-high seven-inning performances while allowing one and two earned runs to No. 1 Virginia and No. 23 Georgia Tech, respectively, Wotherspoon has combined for a 1.93 ERA in his last pair of outings. The Panthers' leader in strikeouts with 34, Wotherspoon has led Pitt in punch outs in each of the past two seasons, and he is just one of two players in program history to record 85 or more strikeouts in consecutive years (Billy Muldowney, 2005 & 2006). Wotherspoon is also among the top ranks in several of the Panthers' major career pitching categories, as he is tied for third in wins (21), fourth in innings pitched (293.2), fifth in strikeouts (236) and games started (44) and tied for 10th in total appearances (54).

THE HESS EXPRESS: Following a slow start to his junior campaign, Eric Hess (JR/Erie, Pa.) has developed into one of the most productive offensive assets at Pitt's disposal this season. Coupled with seven multi-hit performances in 2014, Hess has recorded a hit in 11 of his last 13 games to pull himself atop the team's offensive charts in both batting average (.306) and on-base percentage (.402). A great deal of Hess' value has also come during conference play, as he leads the Panthers in batting average (.364) and on-base percentage (.429) while totaling the second-most hits (16) against ACC opponents. Furthermore, the junior lefty has led Pitt with a .364 batting average and a .429 on-base percentage in the last five contests, in addition to being second on the team in base knocks (16) during that stretch. Aside from his production at the plate, Hess beholds the best fielding percentage (.992) among all regular starters while working exclusively at first base.

STICK AT THE SIX: Dylan Wolsonovich (SO/Ford City, Pa.) has lifted his batting average from .261 to a team second-best .302 in the past three weeks, proving that his role out of the two-hole is a crucial one at best. Not only is the sophomore shortstop among the best on the team in batting average, he is also second among all Panthers in on-base percentage (.397), tied for second in hits (35) and tied for third in RBI (19). Wolsonovich, who has registered a hit in 22 of 31 games played in 2014, enters weekend play having posted a base knock in 12 of his last 15 games, including a career-high seven-game hitting streak that extended from March 22-April 2. Wolsonovich has topped Pitt in hits (11) and batting average (.344) in the last 10 games to provide a strong spark during the Panthers' current dry spell at the dish, and he has driven in the second-most RBI (12 in 14 games) on the team during conference match-ups as well. Wolsonovich is one hit shy of tying his career high, originally set a season ago as a redshirt freshman.

PLEASE AND VRANKA: Coming off of a 3-for-6 game in which he recorded two runs, two doubles and two RBI against Akron on April 8, Stephen Vranka (SR/Monroeville, Pa.) has continued to prove his worth as a viable leadoff option for Pitt. Vranka, who is batting .286 with two home runs and 19 RBI this season, leads the Panthers in hits (38), runs (28), extra-base hits (15) and walks (23) and he is tied for first on the team in stolen bases (6) as well. During ACC play, the senior center fielder is also a formidable threat, donning the ranks in hits (17), runs (10), doubles (4) and triples (3) during league contests. Credit the Greater Pittsburgh Area native for his consistency with the bat, as he has tallied a base hit in nine of the last 12 games in addition to totaling the second-most multi-hit games (10) on the team this season. Vranka is second all-time in Pitt baseball history in three-baggers (14), trailing only Ben Copeland's (2003-05) career mark of 18, and he is also fourth in the program's record books in runs scored (149).

POWER OF THE `PEN: Hobie Harris (JR/McKinney, Texas), a Paris Junior College transfer, has effectively been the most fearsome hurler out of the Panthers' bullpen this season. Harris, who is 3-3 with two saves and 26 strikeouts in 33.1 innings pitched over 13 total appearances, currently owns the 10th-best ERA (2.43) in the ACC. He also tops the league in opponents' batting average against (.133), besting Virginia's Nathan Kirby's mark of .146 by 13 points. Harris has posted a 1.64 ERA (11 IP, 2 ER) and a .088 batting average against in his last four games, with the lone pair of runs coming from the Cavaliers on April 6. Prior to that contest, his most recent outing, Harris had strung together a streak of 12 consecutive scoreless frames (March 22-April 5). Complimenting Harris in relief is the sidewinding senior Jon Danielczyk (SR/Erie, Pa.), who has appeared in more games (17) this season than any other Pitt pitcher. Danielczyk has held the opposition scoreless in eight of his last nine outings and in each of his last six (6.2 IP). He has also manufactured a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings pitched against conference foes. Danielczyk's 2.11 career ERA (65 IP, 15 ER) at the moment is slated at seventh all-time in Panthers history.

PANTHER PROSPECTS: Casey Roche (SR/Downingtown, Pa.) and Boo Vazquez (JR/Youngstown, Ohio) entered the 2014 season decorated by national and conference honors by widely-accredited publications. Roche, who was tabbed a Third Team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association (NCBWA) after his extraordinary junior campaign in 2013, was also named a First Team Preseason All-American by the NCBWA for 2014. Roche is batting .285 this season with three home runs and 23 RBI and he has registered the third-best batting average (.306) over Pitt's past 10 contests. He is also third in program history in career RBI (152), eighth in hits (220) and ninth in games started (177). Vazquez, on the other hand, was listed as the nation's No. 67 prospect on Baseball America's Top-100 list in addition to being named the No. 11 prospect in the ACC this season. Despite four straight hitless games and an .094 batting average in his last 10 games, Vazquez is first on the team in home runs (5) and tied for third in the conference in RBI (30).

FORTIFIED AT FORTY-TWO: The Panthers set a program record in wins on May 12, 2013 when they defeated Villanova, 10-2, for its 40th victory of the season (also Jordano's 750th career win) in Pitt's final Big East game at Charles L. Cost Field. The Panthers finished at 42-17 on the year with an 18-6 conference record, edging Pitt's 1995 39-win season and tying its program best in conference wins (originally set in 2010). Last season marked the sixth time in history that the Panthers have won 35 or more games (fifth time under Jordano). Pitt, which swept a program-record eight three-game series in 2013, also posted its best winning percentage (.712) since 1981 (.758, 25-8) to rank 17th in NCAA Division-I baseball. The Panthers have held themselves at or above .500 in five consecutive seasons (2009-13), two shy of the program record of seven straight seasons (1967-73). Pitt was 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: The Panthers' 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, Pitt was 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). The Panthers were second in hits (625) and doubles (108), tied for third in triples (23) and fifth in stolen bases (72) as well. Defensively, the Panthers converted 61 double plays on the season to lead the conference and to tie for 10th nationally.

- PITT -