The No. 16 Pitt baseball team battled back from two deficits, but not a third in a 6-5 loss to Kent State on Tuesday night.
Eric Dorsch pitched an inning of relief for the Golden Flash, to earn the win. Brian Clark pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. J.R. Leonard took the loss for the Panthers, giving up a run in 1.1 innings of relief.
"It was a good baseball game," Pitt head coach Joe Jordano said afterwards. "I have tremendous respect for Kent State. They're class people and great coaches. It's a tough one to lose, but we played hard and came up a little bit short."
Kent State got on the board when T.J. Sutton doubled in Tommy Monnot. The Panthers got three back in their half of the second. Sam Parente led off the bottom of the second with a solo home run to right field, on the first pitch of the inning. After a base hit by John Peluso, Steve Shelinsky walked. A sacrifice bunt by Evan Oswald advanced the runners to second and third with one out. Dylan Wolsonovich drove in Peluso to give Pitt a 2-1 lead. Shelinksy then scored on a base ht by Stephen Vranka, giving Pitt the 3-1 lead.
In the sixth inning, with runners on second and third, Jason Bagoly drove in a pair of runs on a single for Kent State, tying the game at 3-3. Jon Danielczyk then came on in relief of starting pitcher Casey Roche. Roche finished with five earned runs in five innings, 10 hits. A base hit by Sawyer Polen drove in Bagoly and Sutton. Kent State took a 5-3 lead with one out in the sixth.
Danielczyk got George Roberts to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, ending the inning.
In the Pitt half of the seventh, Shelinsky led off with a walk. Vranka advanced Shelinsky over to third, with two outs in the seventh. Kent State then changed pitchers, going with Dorsch. Elvin Soto hit a base hit to right field, facing a full count. His hit drove in Shelinsky, making it a 5-4 deficit. On his very first pitch, Roche--who remained in the game at designated hitter--drove in Vranka from third on a base hit to right field. Facing a 2-2 count, Boo Vasquez hustled out a ground ball to second base, beating out Dorsch to first base for a hit.
The bases were loaded for Parente, who struck out swinging. Still, the Panthers got back in the game with a pair of runs on four hits. Jordano then got tossed after arguing Parente's strike three call.
"No panic, one good at bat after another, string some hits together," Parente said of his team's ability to come from behind twice. "Basically, when you're down like that, anything you can to get on base and hope for the best."
Leonardi came on and struck out two in the eighth, keeping the game tied at 5-5. After getting another strikeout in Kent State's half of the eighth, Roberts hit a triple to right center field for the Golden Flash. Monnot drove in Roberts, giving Kent State a 6-5 lead. After a single from Alex Miklos, Leonardi intentionally walked Zalewski, loading the bases.
After loading the bases, Leonardi was relieved by Joe Harvey. Harvey struck out the first batter he faced, then got Sutton to ground to second for a force out.
Clark came on and closed it out for Kent State in the ninth, retiring all three batters he faced including one strikeout.
Pitt falls to 40-12 overall on the season, while the Golden Flash improves to 31-21. Pitt departs for Louisville on Wednesday for a three-game series with the Cardinals to close out the regular season. Games for the series are Thursday and Friday at 6 pm, with the series finale on Saturday at Noon. Saturday's game will also be televised on ESPNU.
"There are some things in this game we could have done better," Jordano said. "We can always learn from our experiences. There's no game that's ever out of reach, and we're going to keep battling until the last pitch."