After taking Finals Week off, Pitt stayed home for a series with Cincinnati. Despite the Bearcats being 4-11 in Big East play entering the weekend, they still provided Pitt with a big challenge, starting with Saturday's doubleheader.
Game 1 saw Ethan Mildren win his 8th game of the season with nearly 8 innings of solid pitching. The righty struck out 9 batters while giving up 6 hits. The Panthers got on the board first in the first inning. Stephen Vranka drew a walk and then managed to get around the 3rd following a wild pitch and a steal. Pitt was aggressive throughout the game, stealing 5 bases en route to a 7-3 win. The Panthers continued to get timely hits, as they have done all season. Going into the 8th, Pitt only held a 5-3 lead. But two straight doubles from Vranka and Eric Hess brought in 1 run and Boo Vazquez had an RBI single to give Pitt a comfortable 7-3 lead.
About 45 minutes later, Game 2 started, with Matt Wotherspoon getting the start. The Big East's best offense struggled to get going early on and only managed 2 hits through 4 innings. With the Bearcats leading 2-0 going into the bottom of the 5th inning, Evan Oswald hit a home run over the left wall to get Pitt on the board, followed by 3 straight singles from Vranka, Hess, and Casey Roche. Roche's single brought Vranka in to tie the game at 2 apiece. The Panthers continued the offense in the 6th, with Elvin Soto's triple to get things started. Soto scored following a sac fly from Sam Parente, giving Pitt a 3-2 lead. Cincy tied things up in the 8th inning and the score remained tied going into the bottom of the 9th. Vazquez got things started with a single to right field and then got to second following a Vranka single. With 2 outs and 2 runners on base, Hess stepped up and hit a ground ball to Cincinnati shortstop Ian Happ. Happ tossed the ball to second base to try and force out Vranka, but the second baseman fumbled the ball. Vazquez made use of the error and slid into home plate, giving Pitt a 4-3 win. The play can be seen here.
Game 3 on Sunday was a sloppy affair for Pitt. It was cloudy and with rain coming in the afternoon, Pitt moved the start time to 10:00. The Panthers were not awake in the beginning, as they failed to record a hit until the 5th inning while the Bearcats raced out to an 8-0 lead going into the bottom of the 5th. The Panthers bats finally woke up in the 5th inning, where they put up 3 runs, followed by 5 runs in the 6th to tie the game. The rain came in and the game was delayed 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The game resumed in the 7th inning. The Panthers got 3 straight hits from Hess, Roche, and Vazquez, including doubles from Hess and Vazquez, which gave Pitt a 1 run lead going into the 8th inning. After a scoreless 8th, Cincinnati tied the game in the 9th inning after Pitt committed 2 errors. In the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and 2 outs, Bearcat pitcher Thomas Gentile walked Ronald Sucre and Pitt managed to sneak out a 10-9 win despite being outhit and playing poorly for most of the game.
The big story of the game though was the errors. The Panthers had 9 errors, many of which led to Bearcat runs. Some factors did work against the Panthers - the early start time and poor weather conditions certainly led to a few of those errors. But 9? Definitely something for Coach Jordano to work on over the next few days, with games against West Virginia and Akron during the midweek portion.