Baseball: Pitt, Duquesne to treat game like exhibition

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Pitt and Duquesne will play a baseball game just for the fun of it at 1 p.m. today at PNC Park.

Both teams will venture out of their league to enjoy the opportunity to find out what it is like to play in a major-league ballpark. They will be using the home of the Pirates for the third consecutive year, with Duquesne winning, 2-1, in 2003 and Pitt winning last year, 5-1.

The managers -- Duquesne's Mike Wilson and Pitt's Joe Jordano -- plan to treat this as an exhibition, saving their top pitchers for all-important conference games this weekend. Pitt (16-13) is 3-7 in the Big East with a three-game series at home against Villanova -- a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday.

Pitt needs to make a push to move up in the standings to qualify as one of the four teams for the Big East tournament.

Duquesne (9-17) is 4-5 in the Atlantic 10 with a doubleheader Saturday and a game Sunday against visiting Xavier. The East and West division winners and runners-up along with the two teams with the next best records reach the A-10 tournament.

"Our priority is Villanova," Jordano said after Pitt's 17-15 victory at Akron yesterday, which featured Ben Copeland's three-run home run and a career-high seven RBIs.

"We have three or four pitchers lined up for Duquesne, and we'll go with our regular lineup until we see how things go."

Jordano said he will start freshman left-hander Rob Brant, 1-1 with a 2.70 earned run average. This will be his eighth appearance and second start.

Pitt's leading hitters for the season are sophomore second baseman Jim Negrych (.396, 6 HRs, 38 RBIs) and Copeland (.352, 27 RBIs, 20 stolen bases), a junior outfielder.

Duquesne's starting pitcher will be Bob Hartle (0-2, 4.85 ERA), whose career highlight was allowing one run in four innings against the Pirates two years ago in Bradenton, Fla.

The offense will rely on junior shortstop Steve Maiolo (.354, 17 RBIs) of Mt. Lebanon and freshman center fielder Eric Morrison (.319, 17 RBIs) of Bethel Park. Morrison hit .458 with six RBIs in five games to be named the A-10 rookie of the week.

The Dukes had their four-game win streak ended with a 17-9 lost to West Virginia yesterday in a non-league game.

Asked if he expects the players on both teams to be in awe of the setting, Jordano said: "It's still 90 feet between first and second base and it's still 60 feet, 6 inches from the pitcher to the catcher. We have to go out and get it done. This is a great experience for both programs, and we're very appreciative of the Pirates for this opportunity."

  
If you go

What: Duquesne (9-17) vs. Pitt (16-13).

When: 1 p.m. today.

Where: PNC Park.

Tickets: Admission is free. Enter through home plate entrance beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Parking: Use lots around stadium.

   

Phil Axelrod can be reached at paxelrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1967.


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