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Pitt awaits NCAA Tournament fate after loss to Notre Dame in Big East baseball

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By Greg Auman
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 3:15 p.m.
 

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Pittsburgh committed five errors, two in the final inning, and took a disappointing exit from the Big East Tournament, falling, 3-2, to Notre Dame in 10 innings at Bright House Field.

Seventh-seeded Notre Dame (34-23) advanced to Sunday's championship game, beating the Panthers (42-17) for the second time in three days. Again, some of Pitt's wounds were self-inflicted, especially at the end.

Notre Dame's first two batters in the 10th reached base on infield errors. After a sacrifice bunt and intentional walk, it looked like Pitt could get out of a bases-loaded jam, as a pop fly wasn't deep enough to tag up. But Ryan Bull's single under the glove of shortstop Evan Oswald scored the winning run.

“I'm pleased with how hard they played, but nobody in that locker room feels good about anything right now,” coach Joe Jordano said. “We're going to have to wait and see if we can extend this season.”

Pitt now must wait for Monday's announcement of the 64-team NCAA field — the Panthers, seeking their first bid since 1995, had been projected as an at-large pick by some sites but have finished by losing six of their last eight games.

Pitt believed it had a 3-2 lead in the top of the 10th. With runners and first and second, Notre Dame pitcher Nick McCarty's pickoff attempt sailed high and bounced into the stands. Jordano expected two bases awarded to each runner, which would have scored a run, but officials ruled McCarty hadn't disengaged from the rubber — a pitcher's throw out of play results in a single base awarded; a non-pitcher merits two bases.

“It's going to be interesting to see the replay,” Jordano said.

That left Pitt with runners at second and third with one out, but Oswald popped out to third, and Boo Vasquez struck out looking to end the inning.

“We had a lot of opportunities in that game. We gave a few opportunities as well, and against a good baseball team, you can't do that,” Jordano said.

Infielder Sam Parente, who drove in Pitt's runs with singles in the second and sixth innings, said his team is optimistic about its future but is already proud of what it accomplished.

“It was a special season,” he said. “All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. We had opportunities to certify ourselves, but some things didn't go our way.”

Pitt is firmly on the bubble — the Panthers went 4-5 against top-50 opponents, with three wins coming in a home sweep of Notre Dame. Another came in Friday's 7-6 win against Seton Hall, eliminating a rival bubble team. The Panthers went 2-6 down the stretch, but five of the losses came against top-30 opponents.

“It was, on paper, the most successful season in the history of the program, with the exception of winning a Big East championship,” Jordano said. “When you look at the full body of work, you do feel good about it. Quite frankly, I feel we've done enough to earn the right to play in the NCAA Tournament.”

Greg Auman is a freelance writer.

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