No. 2 seed Pitt continued its run in the ACC Tournament by defeating the No. 3 seed North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday, 3-0. They will go on to face top seed Florida State in Saturday’s championship game.
Things started out a little dicey for the Panthers. Starter Sarah Dawson threw more than 30 pitches in the first inning, which was cause for concern. To think that she would rebound to throw a complete game shutout (especially when she hadn’t done that all year) was pretty improbable. The Tar Heels didn’t score that inning but came close. The strike zone was really small but it was small for both pitchers so it was consistent. After that long inning, Dawson really settled in and things got easier.
Pitt scored a pair of runs in the second inning and then added a third in the fourth. I’ve written before about Pitt’s depth on offense and that was again on display. Instead of the Panthers’ big guns, Giorgiana Zeremenko and McKayla Taylor, accounting for the runs, the team got production from other players on Friday. Junior Taylor Myers hit a single to score the first two runs and Erin Hershman hit a double to drive in the third. Both Myers and Hershman have been good players for the team this year but, with each only hitting around .250, they’re actually towards the bottom among the starters in batting average. It’s really been that kind of story all year for Pitt as the team has gotten key hits from practically the entire lineup.
Three starters, Zeremenko, Olivia Gray, and Hunter Levesque, are hitting over .300 but the lineup is so much more than them. Kaitlyn Kruger is near .300 (.289) and the aforementioned Taylor is second on the team in home runs (11) while leading the team in RBI (30). The team is also strong defensively and first baseman Gabrielle Fredericks made a great scoop play to grab a ball in the dirt in the final inning to help preserve the win. Add in Pitt’s two pitchers, Dawson and senior Kayla Harris, who are both having great seasons and you have the makings of a very good team.
Who pitches tomorrow is anybody’s guess. Coach Holly Aprile was asked afterwards but said she wasn’t sure yet. Dawson has been so good but she’s also pitched two straight games now and threw a complete game on Friday. Softball is a lot different than baseball as you routinely have pitchers throwing more on consecutive days but it will be interesting to see if Pitt gives her the ball yet again having thrown so much.
Florida State will be a challenge, obviously, but Pitt played they very well this season. They upset them in Game 2 of their series and, while they lost the finale 8-0, Game 1 was just as close as Pitt lost only 2-1. In a one-game scenario, they will have a fighting chance to take home an ACC title.
The game on Friday was an important one for Pitt. Their RPI is at 48 and today might have been a must win for them to remain in consideration for an NCAA bid. The ACC was very down this season so that didn’t do them any favors. The Seminoles are the only ranked team in the conference, sitting at No. 9/10 and have been for much of the year. The Panthers have the second highest number of votes and have only two points in last week’s Coaches Poll. As of today, though, this site has them in.
You can watch the ACC championship on ESPN at noon.