Pitt baseball coach Joe Jordano paraded his freshmen at sun-splashed PNC Park yesterday afternoon, and they certainly brightened the outlook for the future of the Panthers.
Philip Konieczny, John Schultz and David Kaye played instrumental roles in Pitt's 17-6 victory against Duquesne in a non-league game.
Konieczny, a reserve infielder, was 4 for 5 with five RBIs; designated hitter Schultz was 4 for 5 with three runs scored and an RBI; right-hander Kaye allowed just one hit in 41/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first collegiate victory.
Kaye, a hard thrower who entered with an 0-1 record and 1.23 earned run average, was drafted in the 30th round by the Toronto Blue Jays after he graduated from Riverview High School.
"He's going to be very good and has a chance to be a weekend guy for us. Not this year," said Jordano, who saves his top starters for weekend Big East games.
"He's pitching like a junior or senior, not a freshman. He has a great presence on the mound. The fact he was drafted indicates he has a great arm."
Kaye changed the complexion of the game when he relieved Mike Wood with two outs in the fifth and Pitt clinging to a 7-6 lead.
Duquesne did almost all of its offensive damage in the first inning, using four hits, two walks and a hit batsman to score five runs and take a 5-1 lead. But the Dukes (15-17) couldn't do anything against Kaye as they lost their second consecutive game. Duquesne, in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10 Conference, has a three-game league series at Temple this weekend.
Pitt (11-21) is 3-9 in the Big East heading into a three-game series this weekend at home against St. John's.
"We have to start winning some series," Jordano said. "This year has been very difficult with all our injuries in addition to some people in the lineup with performances below expectations. We've been trying to play a little bit of a chess game with our personnel."
Jordano used the freshmen yesterday because three of his players were missing because of academic commitments.
"We'll see more of them," Jordano said. "I liked what I saw out there."
Konieczny, who entered with a .158 batting average and three RBIs, drove in three runs with a two-out double to left to give the Panthers a 7-5 lead in the top of the fifth.
The runs were all unearned because Duquesne first baseman Aaron Janusey dropped a line drive for what would have been the third out. The Dukes hurt their cause with five errors.
Duquesne responded with a run in the fifth on Eric Morrison's third RBI of the game to make it 7-6.
Pitt added a run in the sixth, three in the eighth and six in the ninth to turn the game into a rout.
The teams enjoyed playing in a big-league park so much they soaked up the atmosphere for nearly 31/2 hours. They combined for 23 runs, 24 hits and 5 errors.
"This was a gratifying win for us," Jordano said.
"We still have an opportunity to do something special this season."
Phil Axelrod can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1322.