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Opponent Preview: Pittsburgh

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Meet the Panthers...

North Carolina v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Pittsburgh

Mascot: Panthers | School Location: Pittsburgh, PA | Conference: ACC

2019 Record: 6-4 (0-0, T-1st Coastal) | 2018 RPI Rank: 172

2018 Record: 29-26 (11-19, 6th Coastal) | 2018 RPI Rank: 108

2017 Record: 22-30 (9-21, T-6th Coastal) | 2017 RPI Rank: 131


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Doak Field at Dail Park (Raleigh, NC)

Game Time(s): Friday, Mar 8 @ 12:00pm; Saturday, Mar 9 @ 2:00pm; Sunday, Mar 10 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra (ACCNE): Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh, GoPack All-Access

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

First, let’s take a look at what was said about Pitt from our 2019 Season Preview:

Pitt Baseball will be starting over under new coach Mike Bell. SO DH/UTIL Ron Washington (.284/.333/.428, 7 2B, 6 HR), RS-JR SS David Yanni (.231/.378/.374, 9 2B, 5 HR, 43:48 BB:K), SO OF Chris Cappas (.298/.370/.362, 4 2B, 7 SB), SR C Cole MacLaren (.200/.370/..236, 6 2B, 39:27 BB:K), and SR OF Connor Perry (.191/.339/.265, 6 2B, 3 SB) are returning starters from what was a very weak lineup in 2018. This group is going to have to get better if they hope to make any noise in the ACC this year. That and hope for some solid contributions from newcomers and first-time starters. JR 2B Alex Amos (.252/.366/.260, 7 SB), a 2017 ACC All-Freshman selection, returns after missing the second half of last year due to injury. If Amos can return to his freshman year form (.304/.456/.348, 7 2B, 35:34 BB:K in 2017) that would be a huge boon to the offense. Several freshman should make immediate impacts. FR OF Kyle Hess, FR INF Andres Antonini, FR INF and All-Name Team candidate Sky Duff, FR C/INF Zach Klapak, FR INF Gregory Ryan, and FR INF Kris Soto should all compete for playing time.

RS-JR RHP Derek West (3-4, 3.24 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .200 OBA) headlines the returning pitchers for the Panthers. The other returning weekend starter is (WARNING: This is about to be the best thing I’ve ever written) JR RHP Dan Hammer from Father Judge HS in Philadelphia. Hammer (2-6, 6.79 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, .274 OBA) didn’t exactly lay down the law last year on the mound, but he does have starting experience. SO RHP Chase Smith (1-1, 1 SV, 3.16 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .191 OBA), RS-JR RHP Kevin Henriksen (1-2, 4.28 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, .275 OBA), and JR RHP Chris Gomez (2-1, 4.85 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .265 OBA) are the top returning bullpen arms. FR LHP Mason Ronan was a 29th round selection (Red Sox) in last year’s MLB Draft and should be a weekend rotation guy right away. This kid is legit. High school teammates FR RHP Billy Corcoran, a 36th round MLB Draft Pick (Rangers), and FR RHP Brady Devereux are other freshman arms that should garner innings. JUCO LHP David Moore has an electric arm, but also a complete wild streak. If he can find the strike zone, he’ll get innings. JR RHP Christian Camacho, an Auburn transfer by way of JUCO ball, could also compete for a starting gig.

This is a young roster overall with 14 freshman and just four seniors, so things could get ugly this year as the Panthers build for the future. The freshman class is solid, though.

2019 Projected Record: 31-25 (10-20)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No

Yeah, not really too far off there so far. Washington, McLaren, and Perry are three of the team’s top four hitters, while Yanni hasn’t done too poorly if you look outside of his low batting average. Duff, Hess, and Soto are all members of the lineup, too, for this rebuilding team. Amos has surprisingly played very little considering how well he played two years ago.

The offense has only attempted 8 stolen bases (and been successful just 50% of the time) in 10 games this year, so don’t expect much movement there - especially since they’ll be going up against Patrick Bailey (and maybe Brad Debo). Most importantly for Pitt, though, is that they’ve significantly improved their BB:K ratios in their first year under the new coaching staff (71:94 this year versus 226:454 last year)

On the mound, Hammer has been lights out (I’m saving y’all from more horrible puns, so be appreciative), while West has been moved to a long-man reliever role, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him thrown in as the Sunday starter if his services aren’t needed Friday or Saturday. This team is really lacking in the weekend starting rotation after Hammer, so it wouldn’t shock me to see the coaching staff mix things up going forward - especially if Camacho’s performance falters at all as the Saturday guy. The relief pitching has been tremendous for this team and is really carrying the staff so far... and goodness, are they striking out guys at a ridiculously higher rate than last year (129 K in 90.0 IP this year versus 274 K in 267.0 IP last year).


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Christian Camacho (JR)

Saturday: RHP Dan Hammer (JR)

Sunday: TBA


Key Players:

Offense

CF Connor Perry (SR) - .406 BA, .525 OBP, .750 SLG, 32 AB, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 R, 4 RBI, 8 BB, 8 K, 2-2 SB. Without a doubt the most productive member of the lineup thus far this year, Perry has been a complete surprise this year. The left-handed lead-off hitter and former JUCO star was horrendous last year, but seems to have regained his stroke.

RF Nico Popa (JR) - .368 BA, .478 OBP, .579 SLG, 38 AB, 4 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 9 R, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 7 K, 1-1 SB. Popa is another guy who seems to be benefiting greatly from the change in coaching staffs. He played a ton over his first two years (81 starts), but was largely ineffective during that time. He has some decent wheels.

C Cole MacLaren (SR) - .351 BA, .479 OBP, .459 SLG, 37 AB, 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 9 R, 6 RBI, 9 BB, 11 K, 0-0 SB. MacLaren (let me know if you’re seeing a theme here) struggled at the plate last year, but is performing great this year. The catcher has an excellent eye at the plate, with a 48:30 career BB:K ratio over 265 PAs. Behind the dish, he’s thrown out 3-of-11 attempted base stealers this year.

CF Ron Washington Jr (SR) - .263 BA, .404 OBP, .526 SLG, 38 AB, 7 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 7 R, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 11 K, 0-1 SB. Washington was a 3rd Team All-ACC selection a year ago. He’s off to a fine start this year with an impressive 7 doubles in 10 games.

Pitching

RHP Dan Hammer (JR) - 2-0, 1.76 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, .196 OBA, 46.0 K%, 3.2 BB%, 15.1 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 29 K. Hammer has been sensational, striking out double-digit batters in each of his last two starts. To this point in the season, he’s the undisputed ace of the rotation.

RHP Christian Camacho (JR) - 1-1, 4.63 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, .283 OBA, 26.4 K%, 9.4 BB%, 11.2 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 14 K. JUCO transfer who has been good, but not great thus far.

RHP Chase Smith (SO) - 1-0, 1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, .125 OBA, 40.0 K%, 4.0 BB%, 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K. Sophomore reliever is likely taking over as the Pitt closer. Has good strikeout stuff.

RHP Brady Devereux (FR) - 0-0, 2.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .235 OBA, 38.9 K%, 2.8 BB%, 8.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 14 K. The freshman Devereux has good swing-and-miss stuff.

RHP Derek West (JR) - 0-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .286 OBA, 27.1 K%, 6.3 BB%, 10.0 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 13 K. Returning weekend rotation member has been moved to the bullpen where he can be more flexible in his appearances. Might end up as the Sunday starter.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Man, moving up the start time of the Friday game really cut into my ability to find y’all some fun facts...


Prediction

JR RHP Jason Parker (Friday) and SO LHP Canaan Silver (Saturday) will again be on the mound for the Wolfpack. It looks like SO RHP Reid Johnston is going to be a swing-man for the Pack pitching staff, being available for a Friday or Saturday appearance if needed, but if not, then he’ll take the mound as the Sunday starter.

Pitt has been looking good this year, even if their 6-4 record doesn’t indicate the improvement that’s been taking place. This team will be hit-or-miss like a lot of rebuilding programs are, but they’re capable of scoring wins. The Wolfpack will be their toughest opponent yet.

Outcome: I’d like to go with a sweep here by State, but it’s baseball and it’s tough to win them all, so I’ll say the Pack wins the series two games to one.