Pitt's softball season ended over the weekend as the Panthers dropped two out of three to Georgia Tech. On the year, the team finished a game over .500 at 24-23. It wasn't a terrible season, but definitely a step down from what they achieved over the past two years when they finished 15 games over .500 in 2015 and ten games over last year.
The really interesting thing, though, is that the Panthers' regular season not only ended but the team will not even be in the ACC Tournament, which takes eight of 11 teams.
If you had told me before the year that the team would finish 24-23, I would guess that they would have made the ACC Tournament. Eight of the 11 teams make it and it usually includes teams with losing records. But that wasn't the problem. Rather, it was the 7-16 ACC mark that will keep the team from playing in the ACC Tourney. It was the worst conference winning percentage they've had since 2014 when the Panthers first came into the ACC. And because of it, two teams with markedly worse overall seasons will play instead of Pitt.
Look at North Carolina State, which finished an abysmal 17-37. Not only did the Wolfpack get into the ACC Tournament with that record, they weren't even the last seed and, as a result, will avoid powerhouse and the No. 2 team in the nation in Florida State, who is the top overall seed. No team that finishes 20 games under .500 should really be in any sort of postseason - I think we can all agree on that. But the Wolfpack's 10-14 ACC record was three games better than Pitt so they got the nod. And, for the record, Pitt also took two out of three games against North Carolina State this year so that makes it even more painful.
Also finishing ahead of Pitt in the conference standings was Virginia. The Cavaliers won two more conference games than Pitt but were well under .500, finishing only 22-31 on the season. But it's the ACC games that count and Virginia also got in over the Panthers. The two teams did not play this year.
The Panthers, of course, have nothing to complain about. Conference standings determine where teams rank and while the overall records are important, if you want to play in the ACC Tournament, you have to win, well, ACC games.
The sting of missing the conference tournament should be fresh in the minds of the team all season long next year. It's a reminder that while every game matters, the conference games carry significantly more weight.
That the Panthers couldn't do more against the top teams in the conference really hurt. They played series' against five of the top six teams in the ACC this year and were a miserable 1-14. To be fair, the schedule was a particularly brutal one as evidenced by facing so many of the top programs in the conference (teams play eight of their ten conference mates every year) but you still have to find a way to win more of those games. This year proved that and as I said, there shouldn't be any complaints because that's the way conference tournaments are arranged.
But when you consider that these three teams were all relatively close in the conference while Pitt had so much more regular season success than they did, the whole situation is just kind of unfortunate.