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Pitt wins Big East Tournament opener, faces Notre Dame on Thursday

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 2:18 p.m.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — In mere minutes, sunny Florida skies turned into heavy morning rains, and after a 71-minute delay, Pitt baseball coach Joe Jordano didn't know how his team would follow up on a 4-2 lead against St. John's in the Big East Tournament opener.

The third-seeded Panthers bounced back — not only from the delay, but also from a four-game losing streak — and pulled away to an easy 10-2 win against the sixth-seeded Red Storm. Pitt got strong pitching before and after the break from right-hander Ethan Mildren.

“It's so hot out here it's easy to stay loose,” said Mildren, who didn't allow a hit in four scoreless innings after the rain. “I felt good through the delay. You have to stay locked in and not give in. You never know if you're going back out or not, so you have to be prepared to go back out there.”

Pitt (41-15) advances to play Notre Dame, a 5-0 winner against Seton Hall.

The Pitt-Notre Dame winner earns a day off and advances to Saturday's semifinals.

Pitt had scored at least 11 runs in each game of a three-game sweep against St. John's (23-34), and immediately after the delay Wednesday, the Panthers scored three runs in the fifth, two on a triple by shortstop Evan Oswald.

Mildren, a Laurel Highlands graduate, had thrown 75 pitches when the game was suspended in the fifth, and Jordan wasn't sure how much he'd get from the first-team All-Big East pitcher. Mildren needed only 34 pitches for the next 12 outs, holding the Red Storm to four total hits in his eight innings.

“Huge,” Jordano said. “My pitching coach and I were talking when those huge raindrops were coming down.”

Greg Auman is a freelance writer.

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