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Pitt baseball wins five straight in Sunshine State Classic

At 10-2, the Panthers are off to their best start since 2002

The Pitt baseball team returned to Kissimmee, Florida, over the weekend to resume the Sunshine State Classic, and it put on quite a show, winning all five of its games and putting an exclamation point on the series with a 21-1 rout of St. Peter’s on Tuesday.

The Panthers also swept UMass over three of their five games and tacked on a 3-0 shutout of Butler for good measure. To say the least, the team looked outstanding in Florida, as it averaged 9.2 runs per game and gave up just 1.6 in the series. After the classic, Pitt’s record now stands at 10-2, which is its best start to a season since 2002.

Pitching was clearly a strength for the Panthers, as they recorded back-to-back shutouts against Butler and UMass and only gave up more than two runs once in the series. Perhaps the best display of Pitt’s dominance on the mound came in its shutout of the Bulldogs, as starter Matt Pidich and reliever Chase Smith both put on immaculate performances.

For the third time in three games, Pidich set a personal best in strikeouts, as he fanned nine batsmen. He also posted his second quality start in three games and gave up just three hits and one walk over six innings of work. Smith took over for him in the seventh and was able to strike out two batters himself. He gave up just one hit and one walk in closing out the game.

At the plate, the Panthers got big performances out of Ron Washington Jr. and Liam Sabino, as Washington hit a walk-off double against UMass to start the series and Sabino hit two home runs against St. Peter’s to cap it off. Sabino hit .438 in the series, driving in seven runs and drawing six walks in addition to his multi-homer game against the Peacocks.

That game saw six Pitt players record multi-RBI games, including Sabino, Washington, David Yanni, Caleb Perry, Nico Popa and Chris Cappas. But as great as the St. Peter’s game looks on paper for Pitt, it should be noted that it’s not quite a quality win, as the Peacocks went 0-38 in 2017 and have gone 0-4 to start this season.

UMass was a bit better in terms of quality of competition, as they were 15-32 last season and are currently 1-3. But the win over Butler was particularly significant, as the Bulldogs came into their matchup with Pitt undefeated at 9-0 and played to a 31-20 record in 2017.

Up next for the Panthers is their ACC opener against Virginia Tech. The Hokies haven’t fared quite as well early in the season, as they currently stand at 4-7. They also struggled to a 23-32 record in 2017, so the Panthers should have a chance to get off to a solid start in conference.