The Pitt softball program continues to make dramatic strides under head coach Holly Aprile. In 2015, the Panthers posted their best season reaching the regional finals in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, the team didn't make the NCAAs but had another solid year (31-21) and Sarah Dawson pitched the first perfect game in program history.
This season, the team is off to a good start in the quest for the NCAA Tournament again. The Panthers are 5-0 on the season and, for the first time in the history of the program, are ranked in the polls, checking in at No. 24 in the USA Today poll and No. 25 in the ESPN poll.
That ascension to the rankings came mostly on the two wins they scored against No. 20 Kentucky in the UCF Knights Invitational last weekend. In addition to those wins, the Panthers also knocked off Central Florida twice and beat Florida A&M. Pitt won by at least two runs in each contest.
The pitching rotation consisted of freshman Brittany Knight and junior Kayla Harris. Dawson, who threw that aforementioned perfect game, has come on in relief so far. She was an incredible 8-0 last year, so I have to imagine she might have chances to start later. Both starters were incredible over the weekend and Knight has yet to give up an earned run. Behind a perfect 3-0 record and a complete game, she was named the ACC Pitcher of the Week.
The staff looks formidable to say the last. Knight, Harris, and Dawson have combined for a 1.17 ERA through five contests (two against a ranked Kentucky team). I'm always encouraged to see teams with strong starting pitching in the college ranks because you really only need two good ones to be competitive in baseball where the rotations consist of three guys. And in softball with teams often going with only two starters, Pitt's situation looks even better. The Panthers look like they have three competent starters and, offense aside, should be in games merely because of that.
This weekend, the women head to the ACC/Big Ten Challenge (yes, those are in softball, too) to face Nebraska in a pair of games and Northwestern in a pair of games down in Florida while the weather warms up around these parts. It's early, but so far, the Panthers have a promising start to the year.