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Pitt

Pitt opens ACC baseball tournament with 2-1 victory against Georgia Tech

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, May 22, 2018, 1:45 p.m.

Matt Pidich is a redshirt senior pitcher, nearing the end of his Pitt career. But it's doubtful he enjoyed any victory in his five seasons more than what occurred Tuesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Complex.

Pidich led No. 12 (and last)-seeded Pitt to a 2-1 victory against No. 8 Georgia Tech in the first game of the ACC Championship -- the Panthers' first appearance in the conference tournament since they joined in 2014.

He worked seven innings (the first six scoreless), striking out eight to bring his season total to 99 while allowing one run on three hits and one walk.

“We're the 12 seed, and we've been the underdogs ever since we came into the ACC,” Pidich said “You can pick us last, but we're going to come at you with everything we have.

“It's one of those things where we knew going into it that anything can happen. I mean, everyone knows in baseball anything can happen. Anyone can win the postseason.”

Pitt coach Joe Jordano called it “a great day for our program.”

The Panthers (28-25) will complete pool play Wednesday against top-seeded North Carolina, with the winner earning a place in Saturday's semifinals. Dan Hammer will start on the mound for Pitt, with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.

“I thought we played a really good baseball game today,” Jordano said. “Georgia Tech's top of the lineup is one of the most dangerous in the league. We knew that Matt would have to throw one of his best games in order to give us an opportunity.

“The difference today was that we got timely hits. We played well defensively. We pitched well. Their guy (Georgia Tech starting pitcher (Xzavion Curry) is tough, came right at us and threw very well. We have tremendous respect for them.”

The Panthers broke a 0-0 tie in the seventh inning, scoring two runs. Liam Sabino was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by cleanup hitter Ron Washington Jr. A two-out single up the middle by Caleb Parry scored Sabino and freshman Chris Cappas ripped his first career triple into right-center to score Parry. Cappas doubled earlier in the game.

Georgia Tech (31-26) responded in the bottom of the inning with a run on a double, wild pitch and groundout. Pidich pitched out of the jam by striking out Colin Hall and inducing a hard line drive out by Austin Wilhite.

Sophomore relief pitcher R.J. Freure secured his second save by striking out three in the final two innings.

In the bottom of the ninth, he faced Georgia Tech's 2-3-4 hitters, striking out Chase Murray and ACC Player of the Year Joey Bart before inducing a Kyle McCann groundout to second base that Sabino flipped to first base using only his glove.

“R.J. was great,” Jordano said. “You know, R.J. is going to elevate your blood pressure a little bit. You know, there are times where he gets a little bit erratic, but sometimes that's a positive for him.

“And when he throws that breaking pitch for a strike, his stuff is electric. He's been a guy for us all year.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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