Virginia Sweeps Twinbill from Pitt Baseball

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh baseball team fell in the series-opening doubleheader against No. 20 Virginia on a rain-soaked Charles L. Cost Field Saturday afternoon.

(Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics)

Despite a solid start from ace T.J. Zeuch, Pitt dropped a 5-1 decision in game one. The Panthers took a one-run lead into the eighth in game two, but a come-from-behind victory from Virginia would give the reigning national champions the two-game sweep.

The first matchup of the doubleheader saw two highly touted pitchers square off in Zeuch and Virginia’s Connor Jones, resulting in a Virginia 5-1 victory.

The pair of righties are expected to go early in June’s MLB Draft, as Jones is tabbed as the 15th-ranked prospect by Zeuch also appears on the list, sitting at 41st.

Both pitchers got off to solid starts, stymying batters and displaying their skill set in front of a crowd of fans and an assortment of scouts from each MLB team.

Virginia struck first, in the fourth inning. After a single and a one out walk, Adam Haseley connected on a double to left center field to score two Cavaliers. Then following a strikeout, an error by Caleb Parry scored Haseley, enhancing Virginia’s lead to 3-0.

Another costly Pitt error plagued the Panthers in the fifth, as Virginia scored two more runs. With runners on second and third, Zeuch struck out Daniel Pinero on a dropped third strike. Alex Kowalczyk’s errant throw to first base reached the outfield, inflating the Cavaliers lead to 5-0.

Zeuch finished his strong outing allowing six hits and five runs, although only two were earned. Pitt’s ace went seven innings, striking out eight batters and walking one.

Connor Jones had a stellar outing as well, as the junior upped his record to 9-1 on the year. Jones pitched a complete game, allowing four hits and one run. Jones struck out five batters while working two. Three of the four hits Jones surrendered occurred in the ninth inning when the Panthers scored their lone run.

Charles Leblanc led off the inning with a single, extending his reached base streak to 11 games. Nick Yarnall followed that with a double. After Kowalczyk struck out, Frank Maldonado lined a two-RBI single through the right side of the infield, scoring Leblanc.

David Yanni grounded into a double play to end the first game of the doubleheader. Yanni had a single in second inning, the Panthers first hit of the game. Jones rebounded, going six innings without allowing a hit to quiet the Panthers offense.

Pitt got off to a rough start in the second game, as a five-hit inning for the Cavaliers in the first produced five runs. Starter Aaron Sandefur would calm down following the tough start, allowing the Panthers to claw back into the game.

In the second, Alex Kowalczyk sent a single to center field, moving to a third on a double from David Yanni. In the next at bat, Frank Maldonado would single through the right side, scoring Kowalczyk and putting Yanni at third. A sacrifice fly from Yaya Chentouf allowed Yanni to score, cutting the Virginia lead to 5-2.

Pitt plated another pair in the fifth on a two-run homerun to left field by Charles Leblanc.

The Panthers took their first lead of the series in the sixth, scoring two runs on three hits. Maldonado recorded an infield single to kick things off for Pitt, moving to second on a single through the left side by Chentouf. A double from Manny Pazos would score Maldonado to tie the game.

Following his home run in the fifth, Virginia elected to intentionally walk Leblanc, loading the bases for Nick Yarnall. The junior would draw a five-pitch walk of his own, scoring Chentouf and giving Pitt a 6-5 advantage.

Following the rocky start, Sandefur was in complete control through the seventh inning, before getting into a bit of trouble in the eighth. The senior retired 18 of the 23 batters he faced through his final innings of work. Sandefur was pulled in favor of Josh Falk after surrendering a walk and a single.

Despite the steady rain flow, Falk was able to retire the pair. A slip-and-slide play by Yarnall ended the inning, sending Pitt into the bottom of the frame with a one-run advantage.

The Panthers would put on a pair in the eighth, but couldn’t bring another around.

Falk would come out for the final inning, retiring the first batter before putting the potential tying runner on first, after hitting Nate Eikhoff on the leg. A walk in the next at bat prompted head coach Jordano to call on Chentouf to take over on the hill.

Chentouf would get leadoff hitter Ernie Clement to ground into a fielder’s choice, getting the out at second but putting runners on the corners with a pair of outs. A double to left field would score a pair, as Virginia took a 7-6 lead with three outs to go.

In the ninth, Ronnie Sherman reached on an error, advancing to third with two outs for Chentouf, who sent a well-hit roller to third. Chentouf was narrowly out as the Panthers fell for the second time on the afternoon.

With the losses, Pitt falls to 21-16-0, 8-11-0 in the ACC. Zeuch earned his first loss of the season in game one, as he falls to 5-1 on the year, while Chentouf took the loss in game two, falling to 0-1 on the season.

The Panthers will have a chance at redemption tomorrow afternoon as Virginia returns to Charles L. Cost Field for a 1 p.m. meeting with the Cavaliers.

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