Pitt's baseball players have experienced their share of disappointments on the field and disruptions off because of bomb threats on campus. Despite the distractions, Rick Devereaux has managed to maintain a high level of consistency for the Panthers.
"I'm one of three seniors on the team and obviously this has been tough on me because we haven't gotten to the level we wanted to with wins and losses," said Devereaux, a first baseman who leads Pitt (19-20, 4-11 Big East) with a .349 batting average, seven home runs and a conference-leading 46 RBIs.
"I have a leadership role ... I've been through the baseball thing."
Devereaux's batting average ranks 11th in the Big East.
After setting numerous West Allegheny High School hitting records, Devereaux, an Oakdale resident, began his collegiate baseball career at Duquesne, where he averaged .323 for two seasons and was named to the Atlantic 10 Conference all-rookie team. But Devereaux found himself without a team when Duquesne dropped baseball as a varsity sport after the 2010 season.
"The initial news was tough, but I saw it as a challenge and a new opportunity," he said. "Pitt recruited me and it was nice to have to go only 2 miles to keep playing. Pitt didn't recruit me out of high school. I had a lot of interest in Duquesne and it seemed at the time the right decision."
Devereaux quickly added, "I'm no longer a Duquesne guy, I'm a Pitt guy."
It was a smooth transition for Devereaux to go from the Bluff to Oakland. He quickly made a home for himself in Pitt's lineup.
"A school wouldn't recruit a junior if you weren't going to play," he said. "Everybody at Pitt made it easy. I felt welcomed. The Big East is a little more challenging than the A-10, but if you don't show up every day it doesn't matter whom you're playing.
"Baseball players are baseball players. The coaches have made me more of a complete player and have helped take me to another level as a hitter. The numbers will show the effort you've put in."
While Devereaux's statistics have soared, the Panthers have slumped and are in 11th place in the 12-team Big East. The top eight finishers qualify for the postseason playoffs. The Panthers are coming off a split of a doubleheader against West Virginia in which Devereaux hit a grand slam in a 14-5 victory in the opening game. They have a three-game series this weekend at Georgetown.
But Devereaux hasn't been able to put all his focus on Georgetown because this is final exams week at Pitt. Devereaux, who will earn a degree this spring in management business, said the bomb threats have canceled a number of his recent classes.
"I live in an apartment off campus so I haven't been forced to evacuate, but it's hit some of the younger guys who have had to leave the dorms at different times," he said. "Some of my finals have been shifted around, but otherwise I haven't had to make as many adjustments as some of the freshmen and sophomores. It just hasn't been a normal couple weeks."
Devereaux, who starred in football and baseball in high school, has added "a good 25 pounds" in college and now is 6 feet 1, 205 pounds.
"It's always been baseball first for me," said Devereaux, who played in prestigious wooden-bat summer leagues in Kansas, Connecticut and Minnesota the past three years. "I would love to continue to play baseball in the future."
Those plans may depend on the Major League Baseball draft in June.
"I haven't heard anything [about being drafted]," he said. "There are always scouts in the stands at our games, but you never know who they're looking at."
Devereaux hopes that his statistics have opened some eyes.
First Published April 24, 2012 12:00 AM