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Pitt baseball, softball teams have mixed success early in season

Baseball Alex Amos 2017 www.pittsburghpanthers.com

The Pitt baseball and softball seasons are underway. Both programs opened with wins but have since had some tough losses.

The baseball team isn’t in bad shape, exactly. The Panthers are 3-1 after all. But while that sounds good, Pitt hasn’t been flawless. The team’s lone loss was to Saint Louis as the Billikens defeated them, 6-5.

A single one-run loss isn’t alarm for panic. But it’s who defeated the Panthers that is frustrating. All indications point to Saint Louis being a bad team this year and they’re currently 1-3. Among their early losses were games dropped against Old Dominion and Toledo (Toledo twice) by an average of more than five runs per game. Yet, they still managed to defeat Pitt.

The softball team has played more games and is also off to an okay start. This weekend, they split the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, going 1-1 against both Wisconsin and Illlinois. But the team has also had some missteps along the way, too. After starting the season with three straight wins over Loyola Marymount, Utah State, and Rutgers, the Pitt women lost games to Cal State Fullerton and played to a scoreless tie against Loyola.

Those latter two games were disappointments. Cal State Fullerton is only 3-6 on the year and has three losses by eight or more runs. Loyola Marymount is another bad team that is only 2-4-1. A tie is better than a loss but you can’t leave wins on the field like that when you only need to manage a single run.

2018 is an important year for both teams. We’re pretty much at the point of do or die for the baseball program, as I wrote last year. Coach Joe Jordano himself acknowledged in the offseason that the team needs to take a step forward this year. Since joining the ACC in 2014, the program has been under .500 every season. No one expects the baseball team to start dominating instantly in the best conference in the country but the program continues to drop games to teams that they shouldn’t - like Saint Louis.

I’m always a little forgiving in a sport like baseball. Sometimes all it takes is a good pitching performance for an underdog to compete. Sometimes the bats just aren’t there. Pitt themselves has been a beneficiary of this sort of flukiness in the sport when they took down a No. 1 Virginia team a few years ago in a single game and also took a game from North Carolina last season. Those sorts of things just happen in baseball. At the same time, when the team has struggled to get to even .500, you have to limit your losses against bad teams even more.

The softball team has had much more success over last few years. The team has been over .500 for each of the last three seasons and won two games in the NCAA Tournament in 2015. I’d still contend that 2018 is a big one for them just to keep momentum growing for the program. In 2016, they had a solid year but failed to make the NCAAs after losing their first game in the ACC Tournament. Last year, they didn’t even make the ACC Tournament (despite being better than some teams that did) because their in-conference work was so poor.

Early returns for both teams aren’t too bad right now but they generally aren’t this time of year. What the Panthers need to do is find a way to lose fewer games that they shouldn’t and also, hopefully, steal a few others along the way.

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