'Grittsburgh' Powers Past Notre Dame
The Pitt Panthers exploded for five home runs on Wednesday enroute to a 9-5 upset of 8th seeded Notre Dame. The team affectionately known as 'Grittsburgh' is extremely unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament (they’d have to win the ACC Tournament for the automatic bid), but they’re happy to play the spoiler role.
“That’s kind of the Pitt mentality,” said Head Coach Michael Bell. “You could say Grittsburgh. You could say why are you here? Well, this is three years in a row. These guys have earned everything they’ve gotten in front of them in that opportunity to compete for championships.”
Sky Duff wasted no time putting Pitt on the board despite the presence of All-ACC Second Teamer Aidan Tyrell on the mound for the Irish. The senior third baseman launched a leadoff home run on the fourth pitch of the game to make it 1-0. Duff was the player of the game after a 3-4 performance in which he reached base safely four times and scored twice. Noah Martinez, Kyle Hess, Justin Acal, and Dom Popa also homered for the Panthers. Sophomore catcher Jayden Melendez, hitting behind Duff in the lineup, went 3-5 with a double.
“We talked this past week about being aggressive and playing our brand of baseball,” said Duff. “We don’t want to let the pitcher dictate what we’re doing at the plate. If we be ourselves and play the game that we want to play and play aggressive, then good things will come.”
Irish ace Tyrell entered the game with a 2.74 ERA and had his worst start of the year, giving up 6 ER over just 4 innings pitch, including 3 home runs. Only once had the senior southpaw given up 5 or more earned runs in a game and that was back on April 21st against Virginia.
“He just couldn’t locate,” Notre Dame Coach Sean Stiffler said after. “His stuff just didn’t quite seem to have the finish on it that I’ve seen over the last six or seven weeks.”
Senior first baseman Carter Putz went 3-5 to lead the Irish offense, but it wasn’t meant to be. After losing back-to-back ACC series to end the regular season and Pitt today, Notre Dame’s dreams of an NCAA Regional are almost certainly over.
Pitt will go for a shocking Pool A victory against #1 Wake Forest at 11 AM on Thursday, while Notre Dame will end their season on Friday against the Demon Deacons at 7 PM.
Virginia Mercy-Rules Georgia Tech
Virginia faced Georgia Tech for the fourth time in six days on Wednesday and Virginia beat Georgia Tech for the fourth time in six days, 15-1 in 7 innings. The 10-run mercy rule, which is only in effect for the ACC Tournament, goes into effect in the 7th inning. By the time the rule came into effect, Virginia had led by 10 or more runs since the Top of the 5th inning. With the loss, Georgia Tech’s 2023 is over.
2023 ACC Player of the Year Kyle Teel got things started for Virginia with a leadoff double in the 2nd inning, coming around to score in the next at-bat after Jadyn Jackson’s throwing error. Two innings later, the star catcher went deep to center for a solo home run to make it 2-0. Teel started the game 3-3 and was a triple short of the cycle. He finished the game 3-4 with 2 RBIs.
“Kyle Teel was locked in all day from the first at bat he had and really inspired us with that home run to dead center field,” said Coach Brian O’Connor. “That was as impressive a thing as I've seen in this ballpark. You can pull home runs or hit balls over the bull, but to hit a ball to dead center on a line like that is incredibly impressive.”
Starting pitcher Nick Parker got the nod less than a week after facing Georgia Tech in Atlanta last Thursday. He struggled a bit in that start, giving up 3 earned runs as he grinded for 5 innings without his best stuff. That was not the case this afternoon as he was sharp from the first pitch, retiring the first six Georgia Tech hitters he faced. When there were baserunners, the graduate transfer from Coastal Carolina was able to masterfully escape unscathed thanks to three double-play ground balls turned by the infield.
Coach O’Connor was quick to praise the right hander. “We played a great baseball game. That started with Nick Parker going out there and throwing 7 innings and shutting down arguably the best offense in this league. That was outstanding.”
Parker went the distance with 7 one-run innings while striking out 6 and walking one. He only gave up 4 hits. To use only one pitcher during a game is a major advantage in this tournament format. “Everybody else on the pitching staff is available,” explained O’Connor. “We’ll have everybody except Nick Parker available tomorrow to do everything we can to try to win that game to give us our ourselves a chance to get to Saturday.”
In addition to Teel, Ethan Anderson and Ethan O’Donnell both homered, while Griff O’Ferrall had a 2-RBI double and Anthony Stephan checked in with the first triple of his career. Each of Virginia’s starting nine reached base safely and scored at least one run.
Georgia Tech outfielders Jake DeLeo and Angelo Dispigna, in what was likely their final game as Yellow Jackets, had the lone highlights for their team. DeLeo tripled to right center in the 3rd inning but was later stranded while Dispigna hit a rocket over the right field fence for Tech’s lone run of the ball game.
Virginia, whose winning streak has reached ten games, will face North Carolina tomorrow afternoon at 3 PM for a spot in the semifinals on Saturday, while Georgia Tech heads home to Atlanta to prepare for next year.
Clemson Beats Virginia Tech Again
In a game that ultimately had no effect on the outcome of the tournament, Clemson beat Virginia Tech 14-5 on Wednesday night. It was the Tigers' fourth win over the Hokies in the last two weeks. Because Virginia Tech lost to Boston College yesterday and the tiebreaker rules favoring the higher seeds, the Hokies could not advance with a win. Likewise, Clemson winning or losing had no bearing either, as the Tigers must only beat Boston College on Friday morning to advance.
Sophomore Carson DeMartini shined for the Hokies early, starting the game 2-3 with 3 RBIs to help give the Hokies a 5-3 through the first five innings. Virginia Tech’s Drue Hackenberg was decent, only giving up 3 earned runs over 5.2 innings while striking out 8.
"It was tough for us to solve Drue Hackenberg tonight, he was electric tonight," said Clemson Head Coach Erik Bakich about the Hokies' ace. "Good fastball, nasty slider. He was throwing the slider in any count, it was tough."
The Hokies looked like they would be through 6 innings with a 2-run lead, but Jack Hurley couldn’t make a routine catch in left, which allowed two unearned runs to score. One hitter later, ACC Freshman of the Year Cam Cannarella grinded out an epic 12-pitch at-bat for an RBI single to give Clemson a 6-5 lead. Freshman Andrew Sentlinger relieved Hackenberg only to load the bases for Caden Grice, who launched his school record third grand slam of the season to right center to make it 10-5 Tigers. All 7 runs in the Clemson 6th were unearned after Hurley’s error that should’ve ended the inning.
After the game, Grice explained his game changing grand slam. "I was just trying to be patient. I was just trying to get my pitch and just keep everything slow." Following that 6th inning, Virginia Tech never really threatened again and Clemson added four more runs to the final 14-5 score.
Clemson will play Boston College for a spot in the semifinals on Friday morning at 11 AM, while Virginia Tech finishes the ACC Tournament 0-2 and will head home to Blacksburg with their season effectively over barring a unlikely miracle at-large bid.