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Opponent Preview: Pittsburgh

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Meet the Panthers... A team having one of the best seasons in program history

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAY 26 ACC Baseball Championship Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Pittsburgh

Mascot: Ferocious Kittens | School Location: Pittsburgh, PA | Conference: ACC

2021 Record: 22-13 (16-11, 2nd Coastal) | 2021 RPI Rank: 28

2020 Record: 10-6 (0-3, T-6th Coastal) | 2020 RPI Rank: 147

2019 Record: 21-34 (8-22, 7th Coastal) | 2019 RPI Rank: 193


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Charles L. Cost Field (Pittsburgh, PA)

Game Time(s): Fri, May 14 @ 6:00pm | Sat, May 15 @ 3:00pm | Sun, May 16 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra / WatchESPN (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Radio: TuneIn App, GoPack (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

It’s really hard to oversell just how impressive this season has been for Pittsburgh. This is a program that has not once in the last 20+ years finished inside the RPI Top 50, yet here they sit with just two weekends to go in the regular season barely outside of the Top 25.

Pitt is a program that historically has been not only accepting of, but almost pleased with mediocrity. There have only been five head coaches for Pitt dating back to 1939, when the school re-established its baseball program. Joe Jordano led the Panthers for 21 years, and although he put together some good teams - such as the 42-17 team of 2013 - his best run was in the early 2000’s where his teams finished over .500 overall for four straight years. His teams never once made an NCAA Regional appearance, but he’s still considered the best baseball coach in program history.

Mike Bell may well be on his way to changing that.

When Jordano stepped down after the 2018 season, the Panthers went out and made a home run hire. Bell had spent the previous seven years as the associate head coach and pitching coach at Florida State. Following the 2018 season, long-time FSU coach Mike Martin announced that he’d be coaching one last season and that his son would be taking over the reigns of the program. That provided some motivation for Bell - who had previous coaching stops at (and CWS appearances with) Tennessee and Oklahoma - to get out of Tallahassee.

After taking the Pitt job, Bell turned around and made a home run hire of his own, bringing in Ty Megahee as his top assistant. Megahee (that’s a fun name to say) is known for his player development skills, with previous stops at Auburn, Mercer, and Western Kentucky.

After spending the 2019 season figuring out what they had, Bell and crew ripped the program apart and turned the roster over almost entirely, bringing in 21 fresh faces, including 11 transfers (9 JUCO, 2 D1). That roster overhaul has paid dividends. The 2020 Panthers team got off to a 10-1 start before getting buzzsawed by a good Miami team and subsequently having the season cancelled. This 2021 team opened ACC play with Bell taking his squad to his old FSU stomping grounds and pulling out a sweep against his former employer. They also returned the favor on Miami, sweeping the Hurricanes a year after they getting wiped out themselves.

The approach of this team isn’t anything earth-shattering. The Panthers are not a power team by any measure. Offensively, they’re below average at pretty much everything, but they don’t give away many outs via bunts and don’t take too many unnecessary chances on the bases. On the mound, they work the corners and induce a lot of weak contact. That’s an approach that can and will be successful when you back it up with an excellent fielding club, which Pitt has.

This isn’t necessarily a team that’s going to wow anybody, but they’re experienced, play solid baseball, and just keep winning games. There’s not much more you could possibly ask for.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Mitch Myers (JR)

Saturday: RHP Matt Gilbertson (JR)

Sunday: RHP Billy Corcoran (SO)


Key Players:

Offense

3B Sky Duff (SO) - .343/.447/.500, 15 2B, 2 HR, 31 R, 19 RBI, 20 BB, 40 K, 1-2 SB. Has been every bit as impressive in conference as in non-conference, slashing .343/.432/.510 in ACC play. Leadoff hitter and an on-base machine. Has multiple hits in 9 of his last 13 games.

RF Nico Popa (SR) - .336/.408/.537, 6 2B, 8 HR, 32 R, 26 RBI, 12 BB, 46 K, 12-13 SB. Hometown kid. 2nd Team All-ACC in 2019 when he slashed .353/.424/.581. Not an overly patient hitter, but has some pop in the bat. One of two threats on the bases.

2B David Yanni (rSR) - .256/.413/.628, 10 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 25 R, 30 RBI, 24 BB, 38 K, 2-2 SB. Sixth year player who has started 205 games. Stocky kid with a power bat and will willingly wear a pitch (9 HBP this year).

CF Jordan Anderson (JR) - .311/.440/.378, 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 15 R, 8 RBI, 12 BB, 21 K, 8-10 SB. The other threat on the bases. Mississippi State transfer by way of JUCO. Slap hitter with no power, but he’s slashing .327/.453/.404 in ACC play.

Pitching

RHP Mitch Myers (JR) - 4-4, 2.92 ERA, 64.2 IP, 58 H, 18 BB, 65 K. Low 90’s fastball, but a low release point and high spin rate give the ball a lot of rise that troubles hitters and gets a guys to chase up and out of the zone. Slider is a nice complementary pitch. Has worked into the 6th or beyond in nine of ten starts this year. A 3.08 career ERA in 14 starts.

RHP Matt Gilbertson (JR) - 6-3, 3.51 ERA, 66.2 IP, 66 H, 13 BB, 54 K. Former JUCO transfer has gone 5.0+ innings in each of his ten starts this year, including 7.0+ innings in each of the last six. Has a 2.88 career ERA over 14 starts.

RHP Billy Corcoran (SO) - 0-1, 2.70 ERA, 10.0 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 7 K. Has only made three appearances this year (all starts), but will be making his 2nd straight weekend start. Allowed just 1 ER over 4.0 IP vs Boston College last weekend. The 6’8 righty has 18 career starts at Pitt, though, with a 3.73 career ERA.

RHP Jordan McCrum (SR) - 2-1, 5 SV, 1.82 ERA, 24.2 IP, 14 H, 14 BB, 29 K. Pitt’s closer has allowed more than one run in just one of 17 outings. Transfer from Monmouth, where he was a team captain.

RHP Chris Gomez (SR) - 2-0, 0 SV, 2.33 ERA, 27.0 IP, 24 H, 7 BB, 18 K. Just a solid all-around pitcher with a lot of experience (70 career appearances).

RHP Dylan Lester (rJR) - 0-0, 1 SV, 6.75 ERA, 18.2 IP, 18 H, 11 BB, 24 K. Transfer from Houston by way of JUCO ball. Has had some incredibly dominant outings (3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K combined vs FSU) and some incredibly awful ones (1.1 IP, 6 H 7 ER vs GT and 1.1 IP, 1 H, 3 ER, 4 BB vs ND).


Quick! Fun Facts!

Despite what you may think, Pitt DH/LF Ron Washington, Jr. is not the son of THAT Ron Washington.

Pitt has the 2nd worst offensive team BB:K ratio (104:306) in ACC play, trailing only Duke (91:276).

Despite the not-great history of the program, Pitt has three players at the MLB level in 2021 (C Kevan Smith, TBR; RHP T.J. Zeuch, TOR; RHP Isaac Mattson, BAL), and another two who appeared in the show in 2020 (RHP Joe Harvey, COL; RHP Ray Black, MIL).

The Panthers last NCAA Regional appearance came in 1995.

This roster has some serious All-Name Team candidates: Sky Duff, Nico Popa, CJ Funk, Jackson Finney, Brock Franks.


Prediction

The starting pitching is about even, with Pitt maybe having a slight edge. Pitt has the advantage in the bullpen. Both pitching staffs are similar in that they rely heavily on their starters to go deep into games.

State has the clear advantage with hitters, though, which I think is the deciding factor.

Outcome: The Pack take two out of three.