Virginia pitching stymies Panthers

No. 1 Cavaliers take series' decisive game

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Pitt pitcher Matt Wotherspoon said after his team's 3-0 loss Sunday to Virginia that he "hates" the term "moral victory."

This weekend wasn't a victory in the truest sense for the Panthers, who dropped two of three games to the No. 1 Cavaliers. But it's also impossible to ignore that there were some positives that came from it.

Namely, Saturday's game brought Pitt its first win in program history against a top-ranked team in the form of a dramatic 2-1 walk-off win. And even though the Panthers were shut out Friday, 4-0, and in the decisive game Sunday, Pitt showed it could go toe-to-toe with the best team in Division I.

"Obviously we didn't swing the bat, but we played clean, we played hard, we stuck it out against the No. 1 team in the nation," third baseman Jordan Frabasilio said. "You can't do much better than that. It would've been nice coming out with a series win, but we got one, at least."

In the series opener Friday, it looked like the Panthers would have trouble getting any sort of offense on the board. Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby struck out 18 and held the Panthers without a hit. Pitt coach Joe Jordano said it was the first time any of his teams have been no-hit in his 27-year coaching career.

It also marked the first time Pitt was shut out at home in the four-year history of Charles L. Cost Field and ended the Panthers' 19-game conference home winning streak.

"That was epic," Jordano said. "That was something special. [Kirby] did such a phenomenal job of spotting his pitches."

Pitt bounced back Saturday in dramatic fashion. The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but Virginia evened the score with an unearned run in the seventh.

With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Frabasilio hit a 2-1 slider to deep center field that allowed pinch-runner A.J. Lardo to score easily from third.

"I was so glad that I could come through for the team in that position," Frabasilio said. "I knew I needed to put a good swing on the ball, looked for anything up in the zone, got a slider high, just let it go."

With a chance to take the series Sunday, Pitt's offense again went cold at the hands of Virginia's pitching. Cavaliers starter Brandon Waddell only struck out three, but effectively mixed up his velocities to hold the Panthers to just two hits.

"He's their [third starter], but they're No. 1 in the country for a reason," Jordano said. "The kid knows how to pitch."

Wotherspoon mostly matched Waddell early on. His only mistake came on a 1-1 changeup he left up in the zone to Virginia left fielder Mike Papi in the fourth inning, which Papi lined off the right-field wall for a double. He scored two batters later on a single from first baseman Nick Howard.

The Cavaliers added two more runs in the top of the ninth, and Howard finished it out on the mound for his ninth save of the season.

"We had to win one," Wotherspoon said. "You can't get swept at home. You can take out of it that we can play with anybody in the country. We played them tough all weekend."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.

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