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Feb. 14, 2014

Game 1: Box Score | Game 2: Box Score

TAMPA, Fla. – The University of Pittsburgh softball team (3-4, 0-0 ACC) dropped both of its games against Illinois and No. 1 Tennessee on the first day of the USF Invitational in Tampa, Fla. Pitt lost to the Fighting Illini by a 2-0 score in the afternoon contest and 5-0 against the nation’s top-ranked Lady Vols in the nightcap.

Illinois 2, Pitt 0

The Panthers fell, 2-0, to Illinois in the opening contest of the USF Invitational. The Fighting Illini were carried by timely defensive efforts and a stellar pitching performance from Brandi Needham, who boasts a 4-0 record and 0.57 ERA through four appearances this season. Alexa Larkin (1-1, 5.14 ERA) picked up the loss in the game after allowing two runs on five hits in six innings of work.

In the opening frame, Needham walked three straight batters to give Pitt a bases-loaded situation with only one out on the board. Illinois shortstop Ruby Rivera made a diving stop across her body on a Carly Thea fielder’s choice and proceeded to nail the go-ahead run out at home plate. Needham finished off the inning by forcing Savannah King into a groundball out to the third baseman.

Ashlee Sills led off the top of the second with a bloop-single over the left side of the infield. Pitt was then able to get runners on first and second when Kaila Balatgek reached on a mishandled ball by Rivera at short. However, following a beautifully executed sacrifice bunt by Kathryn Duran, Needham managed back-to-back groundball outs to escape the frame unscathed, 0-0.

Jenna Mychko followed Brittany Sanchez’s second-inning base knock by ripping a line-drive single up the middle to score the game’s first run, giving the Fighting Illini a 1-0 advantage. Larkin worked a perfect inning in the third to halt Illinois’ offensive attack, but Needham responded with a three-up, three-down showing of her own in the fourth to keep the game where it stood.

Nicole Evans opened the bottom of the fourth with a sharply struck single up the middle that scraped past a diving Maggie Sevilla at second base. After a sacrifice bunt by Sanchez to advance Evans to second, Katie Repole stepped up with a one-out, RBI-single to right-center to push the Fighting Illini’s lead to 2-0.

Duran registered a leadoff single down the left field line to lead off the top of the fifth with Carissa Throckmorton following suit in the next at-bat. Duran and Throckmorton moved up to second and third, respectively, as the result of a sacrifice bunt by Jordan Fannin to put the tying run just 120 feet away from the plate. Needham ended the Panther threat by striking out Tori Nirschl in a well-fought, eight-pitch battle and by getting Sevilla to line out to second to close the frame.

Pitt was unable to manufacture any further offense in the sixth and seventh innings as Needham tallied three strikeouts and allowed only two base runners during that stretch en route to a 2-0 Illinois victory.

No. 1 Tennessee 5, Pitt 0

This evening’s meeting between Pitt and No. 1 Tennessee featured an impressive outing in the circle by the Lady Vols’ Ellen Renfroe (3-0, 0.00 ERA), who nursed a no-hitter into the final inning of the game only for it to be broken up by a two-out infield single by Nirschl. King (2-3, 3.04 ERA) was tabbed with her third loss of the season after Tennessee pushed across five runs on 10 hits in the game.

Renfroe opened the top of the first by striking out the side. The Lady Vols’ bats followed Renfroe’s perfect frame with Melissa Davin delivering a two-out solo home run to put Tennessee on top, 1-0, during the bottom half of the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, Cheyanne Tarango recorded a leadoff single through the left side of the infield and Annie Aldrete notched her first career hit with a single past a diving Balatgek to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Hannah Akamine then reached base safely when first baseman Kaitlin Manuel was unable to corral a groundball hit her way. With one out and the bases loaded, Megan Geer, who went 3-for-4 on the day with three RBI, chopped a groundball over Throckmorton’s head to score two runs, putting Tennessee ahead by a 3-0 score.

Haley Tobler led off the bottom of the sixth with an infield single and was driven home from first base on a stand-up RBI-double to the left field power alley by Geer, 4-0. Madison Shipman made it a 5-0 game when she scored Geer from second base on an RBI-single.

Larkin entered the game in relief of King in the bottom of the sixth inning and struck out Lexi Overstreet, Taylor Koenig and Tarango to escape a late-inning jam. In the top of the seventh, Nirschl and Thea recorded back-to-back two-out base hits to avoid getting no-hit in the Panthers’ defeat.

Pitt returns to action tomorrow morning and afternoon when they take on Wright State at 9 a.m. and USF at 1:45 p.m.

For the latest news and in-game updates on Panthers softball, follow them on Twitter: @PITTSoftball.

Panthers Fall Twice on Day One of the USF Invitational

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