Pitt Baseball Looking For Redemption

Pitt players head begin Big East Tournament play Wednesday confident, not discouraged, following a sweep at Lousiville. Panthers felt they hit the ball okay, and that having a successful Big East run depends on tying up a few loose ends.

Pitt lost its three final games of the regular season, at Louisville, averaging just over three runs a game.

As a result, Louisville won the Big East regular season championship, earning a No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament.

Despite the low output in terms of runs, a lot of the players feel confident entering the Big East Tournament about being able to fix the problem.

"I thought we hit the ball, we just couldn't manufacture any runs," pitcher Joe Harvey said. "We definitely want to go down there and make a statement. As a team, we don't expect anything but to win a championship down there. I don't see this as pressure, because this is what we all signed up for."

In the first game at Louisville, a 5-2 loss, the Panthers even had the tying run at the plate. Bennette Hill came on to pinch hit, and drove a fly ball to the warning track that was caught. Pitt led 1-0 in the second game, after a Stephen Vranka home run in the first, and even chipped away at the deficit, scoring two in the fifth.

The Cardinals outhit the Panthers 30-28 for the series. Pitt, however, left 33 runners on base in the three-game series, including 16 in the 5-2 loss last Thursday.

"We just have to have more consistent at-bats," sophomore outfielder Boo Vazquez said. "Usually we come through in those situations. You have to credit Louisville's (pitching) staff. Any time they got in a jam, they could bring a guy out of the bullpen who threw real well."

Pitt starts off at 10 am against No. 6 seed St. John's. In the regular season, the Panthers swept the Red Storm in New York, scoring double-digit runs in all three games. If the Panthers win Wednesday, they would advance to fave the winner of the 2-7 game between Seton Hall and Notre Dame. Though they didn't play the Pirates in the regular season, they did sweep the Irish in Pittsburgh last month.

One thing is for sure, and that is Pitt is not relying on its 40-win season as enough of a resume to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Their purpose is to win out in Clearwater. Even in that situation, there will be no watch party in Pittsburgh, regardless of the outcome this weekend.

"A total of 64 tournament bids will be handed out, including 30 or 31 automatic wins, according to head coach Joe Jordano.

"We will absolutely have no get-together," Joe Jordano said. "We're completely against that. It's not going to happen. I think if we show well in our tournament, it's going to be difficult to keep us out."

A lot of confidence based on a lot of offensive success this season give this team reason to believe they can compete this week in Clearwater. Tuesday night, a total of eight players were named All-Big East. Among those eight, Elvin Soto, Casey Roche, Steve Shelinksy Jr., Stephen Vranka and Boo Vazquez were recognized for offense.

"We still got the No. 3 seed," team captain Sam Parente said. "At the beginning of the year, we were predicted to finish seventh. That's a lot better than people expected. We're just positive, and excited to get back out there."

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