'Cool feeling:' Pitt baseball makes ACC Tournament for 1st time
Pitt has lost five games in a row, but how it enters the ACC Baseball Tournament next week is less important than the fact the Panthers have made it for the first time since joining the conference in 2014.
“I think we're right there,” coach Joe Jordano said before the 4-1 loss to No. 7 Clemson (42-13, 21-8 ACC) on Friday at Pitt's Charles L. Cost Field. “We just have to put all the pieces together at the right time.
“We're going to keep fighting hard, keep doing what we do best.”
Before Pitt's current slump, the Panthers had compiled four ACC series victories, including winning two of three at Miami on April 20-21. Their 11 ACC victories is a school record.
Since then, Pitt (27-24, 11-18) lost sophomore second baseman Alex Amos for the season with a hand injury. Amos is the second regular lost after sophomore left fielder Nico Popa's season-ending broken hand.
“That's two guys who were in our starting lineup the majority of the season and are now out,” Jordano said.
Finding enough depth has been an issue for Jordano, especially when he must compete against ACC teams who can offer more than the NCAA limit of 11.7 scholarships.
“Many of the other ACC schools have a lot greater access to other (academic) scholarships,” he said.
Thanks to local laws, schools in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina can offer scholarships that don't count against the 11.7. Pitt doesn't have that luxury in Pennsylvania, he said.
“If I could add seven or eight guys to my roster who are legitimate players who don't have to pay tuition, that's a huge advantage,” he said. “It's something we understand we are continually working on. I know our financial aid people do everything they can to put us in the best position possible, but the numbers are the numbers.”
Pitt, like most of the best schools in the nation, is also susceptible to the MLB draft. As many as eight Pitt players could be chosen next month, six of them with eligibility remaining. Clemson will lose Seth Beer, a projected first-round choice, who hit an estimated 450-foot home run Thursday in a 16-6 victory against Pitt.
Pitt won't know its seeding in the tournament until the final game of the regular season Saturday against Clemson, but Jordano said it could be anywhere from Nos. 8-12 in the double-elimination format.
Senior Matt Pidich will pitch in the first game Tuesday in Durham, N.C. He has a 5-2 record and a 3.20 earned run average while striking out 91 batters in 84 1⁄3 innings.
Pidich, who throws fastball, curveball, changeup and cutter, said he's proud to be “taking this school somewhere it's never been before.”
“It's a cool feeling, taking it in my hands.”
No matter the result, Pidich said reaching the tournament gives Pitt's young players a goal for future seasons.
“It's going to be something they will be able to look to and know we were there, let's get back there,” he said.