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Pitt stays alive in Big East baseball tournament with 12-inning win over Seton Hall

| Friday, May 24, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Pitt coach Joe Jordano emailed his players a video last week from an Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward boxing match, conveying a simple message: Keep punching.

So when the Panthers fell behind, 5-1, to Seton Hall in Friday's elimination game, the rallying cry in the dugout was the same: Keep punching. Pitt rallied to force extra innings, and in the bottom of the 12th, with John Peluso facing an 0-2 count with two outs, he kept punching, fouling off two pitches and taking an eight-pitch walk.

He stole second, barely sliding under a tag, and came in to score the winning run on Ronald Sucre's line-drive double to left field as the Panthers celebrated a 7-6 win to stay alive in the Big East baseball tournament.

“I told Peluso before he went up there ‘Just give me a chance. Go out there, give me a shot and see what happens,' ” said Sucre, who didn't start but had five at-bats off the bench. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight from yesterday on out. Little by little, every inning, pitch by pitch. We got punched early, and we were down. He said ‘Keep punching. Keep punching back.' ”

The Panthers (42-16), who improved their resume for an NCAA at-large berth, will need to beat Notre Dame twice on Saturday to advance to Sunday's championship game. The first game is 10 a.m.

“You can't ask for anything else, 12 innings,” Jordano said. “We've played pretty solidly, but from our vantage point, we knew we had to win, had to play clean baseball and get some knocks with runners in scoring position.”

Pitt's 12th-inning rally was made possible by five-plus innings of scoreless relief by Joe Harvey (4-1), who threw 99 pitches, scattering four hits and three walks to earn the win.

“He did an outstanding job,” Jordano said. “He pitched phenomenally.”

The Panthers clawed back with two runs in the sixth and three in the seventh, the biggest hit being a two-run double by Steven Shelinsky. Sam Parente and Peluso had RBI singles in the sixth, and the tying run came in on another Parente at-bat for a fielding error by the Pirates.

Seton Hall (37-19) had won 15 of 16 entering the tournament but won just one game as the Big East's second seed.

Jordano said he will start right-hander Casey Roche against Notre Dame. Roche (1-0, 4.98) has started every game, primarily as an outfielder, but he'll make his sixth pitching appearance of the season.

Greg Auman is a freelance writer.

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