The Pitt Panthers were hit hard by the MLB Draft and graduation, not a great sign for a team that won 20 less games in 2014 than they did in 2013. Hopes had to be maintained for the team’s second year as members of the ACC as they went into 2015 trying to break into an entire new weekend rotation as well as several key hitters.
While the Panthers has shown some hope, early 2015 has mirrored last year in a lot of ways. As a team, Pitt hit only .237 as a team last year – struggling to produce runs for their experienced pitching staff.
This year, with a less experienced staff, the hitting has come through slightly more but has still been haunted by inconsistencies at the plate.
In the season opener against St. Louis, the Panthers pounded out 14 hits that produced 18 runs. Nine players registered a hit, with four of them recording multiple hits. Starting second baseman Jordan Frabasilio registered three hits, including the team’s first homer of the season.
It went downhill the rest of that weekend, as Pitt was shutout by both Kansas State and Ohio State. After getting 14 hits in the first game, the Panthers could only muster up 12 the next two games. A hopeful start went south, quickly, and Pitt found them with a losing record after one weekend of play.
Pitt lost two of three again in the second weekend of play, losing to East Tennessee State and Wofford while only beating USC Upstate. The Panthers were outscored by only two runs (19-17) and hit a far better .282 (29-103) than they did the opening weekend when they were shutout twice (.255).
This past weekend was maybe the best outing of the season for Coach Joe Jordano’s team, even if they didn’t get the results they wanted in the end.
Originally slated to face the VCU Rams in Richmond, weather forced the series to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, Pitt dropped two of three for the third straight weekend. But despite losing two games, the Panthers were able to outscore the Rams 12-9 by losing two of the games in extra innings by only one run.
The pitching staff kept the Panthers in each of the three games, as the weekend rotation was spectacular. In 20 innings, the starter posted a .90 ERA after allowing only two runs. Aaron Sanderfur pitched six innings of shutout baseball in the team’s lone win over the weekend.
Marc Berube pitched eight innings, allowed eight hits and two runs (one earned) and struck out six but didn’t get a decision after the Panthers lost in extra innings.
Pitt was manage able to manage a weekend high 27 hits, but they also hit a season low .239 as they got a few extra at-bats due to two games going past the ninth inning.
The team has been led offensively by Aaron Schnurbusch (.417) and Charles LeBlanc (.371) who are the only players who have collected double-digit hits. Outside of those two players, only Nick Yarnall and Manny Pazos have hit over .300. In Pazos’ case, he only has nine at-bats over the entire season.
Boo Vazquez was the team leader in home runs and RBIs last year got off to a hot start to the season, but has seen his average dip all the way to .226 and has only seven hits in eight games played.
Compared to 2014, the Panthers have been better offensively – even though a smaller sample size – hitting a collective .258 this season. If they want to improve on their 22 wins from a year ago – which they have already put themselves against the wall in doing so – they will still have to do better than where they are at.
Despite losing eight more games than they won, the Panthers were still able to finish 2014 with a winning record at home. So far this season they have yet to play a game north of South Carolina. They won’t play a home game until a mid-week two game series against Niagara.
Things will only get harder from here, as the Panthers open up ACC play against the top ranked Virginia Cavaliers who boast one of the best pitching staffs in the entire nation.
Despite the inexperience, the Panthers have a decent rotation that can keep them in games even in ACC play but it will all come down to how much their bats can improve and how much consistency they can find.