Pitt Baseball Moves Within a Game of .500

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh baseball team opened up the final two games of its nine-game home stretch with a 9-4 victory over Maryland Eastern Shore Tuesday night.

Chris Gomez got his first career start on the hill, tossing 4.0 scoreless innings but earning a no decision in the effort. Gomez surrendered just one hit and one walk, fanning three in his outing.

“He [Gomez] did a nice job,” said head coach Joe Jordano. “He was commanding his breaking ball a little bit, spotted up his fastball, threw a couple of really good changeups. He had a little bit of a struggle getting off the field with two outs a couple of times and that’s something that we’ve been working on with our entire pitching staff. But, overall, I was very pleased. We had three or four freshmen in the lineup throughout the course of the game and they did a nice job. It was one of those games where we lost the lead but then we came right back, showed some resilience and came back and put a crooked number up and took the lead for good.”

The Panthers got one across in the second to jump out to the early lead. A single up the middle by Frank Maldonado got things going as an error in right following a single by Nick Banman put Pitt up 1-0. Pitt added to its lead in the fifth off a solo homer over the wall in right by Manny Pazos, as the home team grabbed a 2-0 advantage.

Visiting Maryland Eastern Shore took the lead in the sixth, stringing together a three-run frame to gain a 3-2 advantage. Back-to-back singles put a pair on as both men moved into scoring position after an error to Pazos. A walk loaded the bases with no outs, as the Panthers called upon reliever Sam Mersing out of the bullpen.

A fielder’s choice bounced back to Mersing recorded the first out for the Panthers, as Mersing was able to get the force at home to avoid any damage. An RBI groundout and a two-run single plated three for the Hawks as they took a one-run lead.

The Panthers answered with five runs on four hits in the bottom of the sixth. A triple from Caleb Parry scored Jacob Wright, who walked to lead off the frame. Maldonado would follow with an infield single and the pair was brought home on a single off the bat of Pazos. In the next at-bat, freshman Zach Zientarski ripped his first career home run to put two more runs on the board, giving the Panthers a 7-3 advantage.

Pitt lengthened its lead in the next inning, holding the Hawks scoreless in the top of the seventh. Banman walked, and P.J. DeMeo was struck by a pitch to put a pair on. A passed ball moved the runners into scoring position, and Pazos was able to send them home on a single to the left, making it 9-3 through seven.

Following a scoreless eighth inning for both teams, the Hawks were able to tack one more run on after Tyler Friis walked, and Jordan Martin singled up the middle to send him home. A foul ball into the mitt of Banman ended things as Pitt captured the 9-4 victory.

Mersing earned the win, improving to 2-2 on the season. Pazos was stellar offensively, going 3-4 with five RBI and two runs scored, including a home run. Zientarski also added a home run.

“Manny is steady, I’ve been saying that all along,” added Jordano. “He does a great job behind the plate and he works very hard on his offense. It’s one of the areas that he’s looking to improve his consistency with. Quite frankly, the base hit with two outs in a 3-3 ballgame, when we had second and third with no one out, and couldn’t get the ball out of the infield and then he comes up and gets a big two-out hit to give us the lead, that was a huge hit in that inning. That was the difference in the ballgame. We came up with a couple of really good situational at bats after that and then obviously we gave up a run or two late, but overall, I thought that when you look at Manny, he’s steady, he does a great job and as a team that was a good solid win for us.”

With the win, the Panthers move to 20-21 on the season and have won three straight. Pitt will return to the diamond tomorrow, hosting Maryland Eastern Shore in the finale at 1 p.m.

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