The Pitt baseball team's season ended over the weekend when the Panthers lost a series to top ten Wake Forest. The team did manage to pull out a 5-4 upset in Game 2 over the No. 19 Demon Deacons but dropped the first game (7-4) and the third one (14-4).
That put the team at 23-30 on the year and gave them their fourth season with a sub-.500 record. Most of the time, the team has been well under .500 - in three of the four seasons, they've finished at least seven games under. Like the softball team, the Panthers will miss the ACC Tournament.
I wrote at the beginning of the season that the team needed to show improvement and, well, that didn't happen. The Panthers nearly got to the .500 mark last year (25-26) but regressed this season. To be fair to coach Joe Jordano on this, though, in a lot of ways, that was to be expected.
The team lost five players to the MLB Draft, including first-round pitcher T.J. Zeuch and Charles Leblanc, who was one of the top shortstops in all of college baseball last season. Three other key players were selected as well and the Panthers were in a virtual rebuild.
Still, Pitt was in a position to get to .500 but stumbled badly down the stretch.
First, the Panthers were swept against Georgia Tech - a team that finished a modest 27-26 on the season. After needing extra innings to beat Youngstown State, they were swept by North Carolina State then defeated in a single game by West Virginia. Both teams are solid, but unranked, so not winning even one game there was disappointing. Pitt then dropped two out of three with West Virginia to close out the season.
I don't know that this was so much a bad season with all of the losses they had than just one that was disappointing. The team lost a lot from last year - there's no doubt about it. The ACC schedule is daunting, no doubt. But Pitt still needs to find a way to win more games. No one is (or should be expecting) this team in its current state to go out and win series against ranked ACC teams. But the Panthers were also swept by Louisville, swept by Virginia, swept by Georgia Tech, swept by North Carolina State.
That simply can't happen.
Losing two out of three games isn't ideal because it puts you back in the race for .500 by another game. But you can live with it, right? However, when you lose all three, that puts you three games back. And when you do that four times in a season, well, you get the idea. Getting at least one game out of a series is absolutely critical to teams like Pitt that are scratching and clawing every step of the way.
I don't necessarily need Pitt to win their ACC series right now. That needs to eventually come but the program is still building itself up. This is a tough conference and I get that. Some of those games were competitive but the bottom line is that Pitt can't suffer through so many sweeps. That's simply too much ground to make up for a team that is, at best, one that's about .500.
The Panthers' also need to at least be reaching the ACC Tournament. Even if you're not among the strongest teams in the conference, being one of the weakest shouldn't be an option. 12 teams make the conference tournament (here's this year's bracket, if you're interested) and the Panthers and Virginia Tech were the only schools left out.
Jordano likely will (and probably should) get a bit of a break this season because of how much the team lost. But next year should be a crucial one for him and, at some point, the baseball program needs to take a bigger step forward.