Things have gone far from what the Pittsburgh Panthers had hoped for since taking two-of-three against the highly ranked Tar Heels of North Carolina.
In the three weekends since the UNC series, the Panthers have only won one game, posting a 1-8 record and have been swept in back-to-back weekends against N.C. State and Notre Dame.
Opposing the quickly fading Panthers baseball team will be the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, who will travel to the Steel City with the conference’s top ranked offense.
While the Panthers’ pitching staff has shown the ability the rise to the occasion when needed, it will be the offense that may have to slug their way out of their current slump.
Wake Forest has shown the ability to find a way to hit even the best of pitching staffs, and the Panthers may have to do some bopping of their own if they want to take the first ever conference matchup between the two schools.
It will all begin with the top of the order, not an unfamiliar strategy for the Panthers. Jacob Wright has batted leadoff in 30-of-31 team games, and has reached base in 21 straight games. In that span he has gone 24-of-73 (.329) and has hits in 12-of-the-last-13 games.
In ACC play, Wright has posted a .754 OPS, all the while not hitting for a single extra-base hit. His 17 conference hits leads the entire team and has stolen a team high four bases against conference foes (12 overall).
While the Panthers will rely on Wright to get on base, driving him in will be left on the middle of the order which, despite a poor overall team average, has shown the ability to hit for power.
Jordan Frabasilio, Frank Maldonado and lately Nick Yarnall will be tasked to keep pace with Demon Deacon’s sluggers Will Craig and Nate Mondou. Craig, a sophomore from Johnson City, Tennesse, not only leads the ACC but the entire nation in home runs – one more than the top two Panthers combined.
Yarnall and Maldonado have really come on in conference play, combing to hit six home runs and slug to a total of .568. Six-of-eight hits Yarnall has collected have been for extra-base hits, including a two-home run effort against the Duke Blue Devils.
The senior Frabasilio has tripled his season home run total from a year ago, only hitting two in 2014 while sitting at six this year. Currently, Frabasilio ranks in the top 100 in the nation in homers, and is in the top ten among conference players. He collected three hits – one a homer – in their series opening win again North Carolina.
Pittsburgh has won just one-of-five conference series this season, and it will take several things to help turn the year around for them – one being hitting. After receiving some brilliant pitching early in the season, the staff has taken a huge step back in recent weeks, possibly due to overpitching and trying to be too perfect while the offense struggled.
It would be foolish for any team to try and trade runs with Wake Forest, but if the Panthers want to break their losing streak they may be forced too.