When Duquesne University decided to fold its baseball program in the spring of 2010, it left a lot of talented players with decisions of their own.
They could remain at Duquesne and keep their scholarship money for the remainder of their time there, or they could transfer to another school and continue playing baseball.
Anthony DeFabio transferred to Pitt, and Panthers coach Joe Jordano is glad he did. DeFabio, a Plum High School graduate, has been one of Pitt's best players and entered the week among the Big East leaders in a couple of statistical categories.
A senior and Pitt's designated hitter, DeFabio is tied for second in the conference with 15 doubles and tied for third with 40 runs scored.
"When you go to a school, you're expecting to be there for four years," DeFabio said. "I thought about staying at Duquesne and just going to school. I was happy at Duquesne and doing well there. I had an up-and-down [sophomore] season. That left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted to play baseball, and coach Jordano gave me that opportunity."
DeFabio had a partial scholarship at Duquesne. After a short time, Jordano was able to find some scholarship money for DeFabio that is on par with what he had with the Dukes. He is one of two Duquesne transfers making a difference for the Panthers this season.
Rick Devereaux, a West Allegheny High School graduate, is the Panthers' top offensive player. He leads the Big East with 46 RBIs and is among the top hitters with a .349 batting average.
DeFabio isn't far behind. He is second on the team with a .339 average and leads the Panthers with a .480 on-base percentage and eight steals.
"Coming to Pitt, it's a bit more competitive than the Atlantic 10," DeFabio said. "But right away, Rick and I jumped right in. I'm a singles and doubles hitter, not much of a power hitter. I've been able to have one of my better seasons this year."
DeFabio is being used mostly as a designated hitter this season, although he has played some catcher and outfield. As a junior, DeFabio was named third-team All-Big East after hitting .337 with 25 RBIs.
"It's really been a blessing in disguise coming to Pitt," DeFabio said. "We have the new stadium here, and we're all treated extremely well. I'm very grateful to the coaches and players here."
The only disappointing thing for DeFabio has been the team's play on the field. After being part of a team that finished in third place in the conference standings last season with a 16-11 record, the Panthers are second-to-last in the standings with a 4-11 mark so far this year.
The Panthers (19-20 overall) dropped two of three to West Virginia in a series over the weekend. They have 12 more Big East games remaining and must jump over a few teams to qualify for the conference tournament. The top eight seeds advance to the tournament May 23-27 in Clearwater, Fla.
DeFabio and the Panthers are aiming to get back to the Big East championship after going 1-2 at the tournament last spring.
"We started off really strong offensively," DeFabio said. "It was a little bit of a surprise to us. Rick and I are the only two senior position players. We're young, but that doesn't mean we're not talented. We've struggled putting it all together. Fortunately, with everything we've gone through, we can still make the tournament."pittsports
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published April 26, 2012 12:00 AM