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Pitt baseball stays hot with series win over Miami

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2017 Baseball Team Win www.pittsburghpanthers.com

The Pitt baseball team continued its strong season over the weekend taking two out of three games from Miami. The series win put Pitt in a tie for third (with the Hurricanes) in the ACC Coastal Division and improved their overall record to 21-16 (10-11 in the ACC).

This is the fourth straight ACC series that Pitt has managed to win. When you think about the turnaround the team has made, it’s quite remarkable. The Panthers got off to a fast start, winning 10 of their first 12 games until ACC play began. But once conference games started, it looked like more of the same. Pitt lost its first three series’ managing only two wins total.

But that third series against Duke is where things began to change. Duke is one of the top teams in the conference this year and Pitt nearly won the series, losing a decisive third game by only a run. Since then, Pitt has been on fire in conference and hasn’t lost a series.

This weekend, Pitt’s bats weren’t incredible but they were buoyed by some great pitching performances. Dan Hammer has really struggled as a starter this year but has rebounded nicely with two strong performances in a row. On Friday against Miami, he gave up only one in seven innings of work. He didn’t get the win even though he was deserving because Pitt needed a Ron Washington ninth inning home run to win it, 2-1.

Pitt returned on Saturday with another great start from Matt Pidich, who went 6 23 innings, giving up no runs and striking out seven, leading the team to a 3-0 win. The Panthers dropped the third game, 3-0, but Blair Calvo turned in a strong start, going seven innings giving up only two earned runs. Pitt didn’t give up a single run in relief in any of the three games.

One interesting note surrounded Washington’s home run. On Friday, after crushing the long ball, he flipped his bat, which obviously irked the Hurricanes as it would most teams. Personally, I’ve never understood why the flipping of the bat draws such ire across all of baseball. But the unwritten rule says, ‘don’t do it’, so you don’t do it Washington did it and the Hurricanes retaliated in Game 2, plunking him late in the game with no one on base. It was clearly intentional and just the way the game is played.

I had zero problem with the pitch hitting Washington. I’m sure he was even looking for it at that point. What I didn’t particularly like was that it was clearly too high and not real far from his head. Because of that, I had zero problem with the ejection. You can very easily hit a guy low there and make your point. Instead, the ball sailed upward, catching Washington slightly above the top of his number on the back or, at the very least, right at the very top of the number. The claim from the announcers that it hit him ‘right on the number’ was either outright false or really misleading, because that hints that it hit him much lower in the middle part of the number. I watched the replay a dozen times and it’s pretty high. You can see the slow-motion replay for yourself here at around the 2:11:15 mark. The Miami pitcher, Frankie Bartow, was tossed and well-regarded manager Jim Morris wasn’t real happy about it.

I don’t know what was said between him and the umpires, or in the conversation the umpires had before making the decision to toss Bartow, but I wonder if the pitch coming in too high was a motivating factor. The pitch should never have been thrown that high and wasn’t necessary in trying to prove a point. The game, however, was not impacted as Miami gave up no additional runs after that.

While Pitt has been hot in the conference games, mid-week games have been a real problem for the team. Two weeks ago, they dropped two to Kent State and West Virginia and this past week, they lost the return game against Kent State. Still, Pitt’s surprising success in the conference has balanced the scales and gives some hope for what the program might be able to accomplish in the ACC in the future. The Panthers, at least this year, have been a very competitive team in the conference and that’s a great thing to see.

Next up for the Panthers is a three-game-series against LIU Brooklyn next weekend. The team has no mid-week games this week, which, given how they’ve gone, is probably a blessing.

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