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Pitt softball opens season with back-to-back wins

The Panthers defeated Loyola Marymount and walked off against Utah State

NCAA SOFTBALL: MAY 12 ACC Tournament - Florida State vs Pitt Photograph by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pitt softball team kicked off the season with a flourish on Friday, notching back-to-back wins in the Titan Classic in Fullerton, California. The Panthers knocked off Loyola Marymount 4-1 in their first game of the day, then walked off with a 3-2 victory over Utah State.

Pitt brought the lumber in its season opener, handily dispatching Loyola Marymount as a result. Although the Panthers fell behind 1-0 in the third inning, they delivered a quick response, as Gabrielle Fredericks led off with a double in the top of the fourth. Erin Hershman then homered to center field, bringing in pinch runner Marissa DeMatteo to take a 2-1 lead.

From then on, the game belonged to the Panthers, as they tacked on another in the fifth, when Alexis Solak scored on an error. Then, in the sixth, McKayla Taylor put an exclamation point on the game with a final home run.

One performance that was somewhat obscured by Pitt’s success at the plate was that of pitcher Kayla Harris. She relieved Sarah Dawson in the fifth inning and did not allow a single runner to reach base, shutting down the Lions late for her first save of the season.

Dawson also had a solid outing, as only one unearned run crossed the plate on her watch in four innings of work. For her efforts, she started the season with a well-deserved win.

The second game was a tighter affair, but Pitt was still able to defeat a Utah State team that went 33-18 in 2017 after a late push.

Harris was again on the mound for the Panthers in Friday’s finale, but she had a tougher time against the Aggies, giving up seven hits and two earned runs over six innings.

The pitcher’s issues started in the top of the first, as the Aggies got off to a hot start. In that half-inning, Utah State racked up three hits, two stolen bases and a run, and Harris didn’t help matters by pegging a batter. She was also spared an additional run when right fielder Connor McGaffic threw out Utah State’s Jazmin Clarke at the plate.

Neither team could get much going after that until the Aggies added a run in the sixth, as Brina Buttacavoli brought Riley Plogger home with a double.

That was enough to wake up the Panthers, as Giorgiana Zeremenko and Gabrielle Frederick evened the score with back-to-back home runs.

One inning later, down to their last out, the Panthers caught a break, as Kaitlyn Kruger drew a walk. Taylor Myers pinch ran for Kruger, and Olivia Gray stepped to the plate. Then, on a 3-1 count, Gray singled to left center, bringing Myers around for the win.

Friday’s showing was heartening, as Pitt showed no signs of rust from the offseason. And while the game went down as a win on “neutral” turf, the win over Loyola Marymount in Fullerton was certainly akin to a road win, which is a positive sign for a team that went 6-13 away last season.

The Panthers will be in action in the Titan Classic again on Saturday, as they’ll face Rutgers at 4 p.m. ET before taking on hosts Cal State Fullerton at 8:30 p.m. ET.