It was a rough first year as members of the ACC for Pitt, going only 11-19 and finishing sixth in the Coastal Division.
The Panthers will start their journey in improving from last year’s finish with a weekend series against the Virginia Cavaliers in their ACC opener.
With a perfect record and one of the best pitching staffs in the entire nation, the Cavaliers have certainly earned their spot at the top of the national rankings – so for Pitt to have a chance this weekend it comes down to one thing – jumping on the UVA pitchers as quickly as possible.
Even though the Panthers have struggled to find any consistency early this season with their offense, one continual bright spot has been the top of the order. Jacob Wright has hit leadoff in each game this year, and while his average (.220) isn’t the best, he has been one of the team’s most consistent hitters (hits in 7-of-9 games).
In fact, Wright’s average jumps all the way up to .281 if you cancel out his 0-for-9 two-game stretch against VCU. He will have to find his way back to the consistency he brought at the top of the order the first two weekends if the Panthers have any chance at stealing a game in Charlottesville.
The biggest difference that could be found at the top of the Panthers’ order was a new addition over this past weekend. So much was thought of freshman Charles LeBlanc that he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 33rd round of the MLB draft despite no playing high school ball.
He did represent Canada in several international competitions, raising awareness of his skillset.
Starting at the bottom of the lineup to begin the year, LeBlanc found himself in the two-hole against the Rams. The freshman responded by hitting safely in all three games, including two multi-hit games (three in the first game).
LeBlanc was already a .318 hitter heading into the VCU series, but thanks to going 6-for-13 he quickly lifted his average to .371 – trailing only Aaron Schnurbusch. His 13 hits lead the team and only trail Jordan Frabasilio in total bases.
Virginia is going to be a tough place to play for anyone in the nation, let alone a team with a lot of turnover and isn’t expected to make much noise this season in Pitt.
But if LeBlanc and Wright can set the table and put themselves in position to score for the rest of the lineup they can at least give their team a fighting chance.