After a tough series loss at the hands of Louisville last weekend, the Cavaliers rebounded nicely taking mid-week games from Old Dominion and George Washington. The win over the Monarchs is particularly beneficial as they have positioned themselves to be one of the best teams in Conference USA and in the conversation for a bid to an NCAA Regional. But the ACC is where the Hoos still need to take care of business and find themselves in need of series wins, especially in the Coastal Division. The meat of the schedule should be in the rear view, but this is still the ACC and there aren’t any gimmies out there. This weekend they welcome Pitt, so let’s take a look at what to watch for this weekend.
For the first time as an ACC program, the Pitt Panthers will come to Virginia looking to maintain some ACC momentum. The last time these two teams were slated to play at Davenport Field, Mother Nature had other plans dropping a snow storm on Charlottesville and causing the teams to move their weekend series to Cary, North Carolina. Pitt is riding a three game winning streak taking the final two in their weekend series with Duke and winning a mid-week game against Penn State. The Panthers are 14-12 overall and 6-6 in the ACC. They have series wins over Virginia Tech and Duke with losses to Louisville and Notre Dame.
Pitt’s strength lies in their pitching. They’re fifth in the ACC with a 3.79 team ERA. Friday night they’ll roll out Matt Pidich who has a 3-2 record with a 3.40 ERA. Josh Mitchell has served as they’re Friday night starter for most of the season and comes in with a 1-2 record and 3.06 ERA. But it may be that Sunday starter Josh Falk is their best pitcher. Falk sports a tidy 2.25 ERA which leads the team. The right hander has a solid 8.65 strike outs per nine innings and batters are only hitting 0.176 against hims. RJ Freure will be the first arm out of the bullpen. The freshman right hander has logged close to starter’s innings in 11 appearances and has compiled a 4-1 record with 12.3 strike outs per nine innings. Leading the Panthers in saves with four is Isaac Mattson with a 2.57 ERA. While nobody on this staff will overwhelm batters, they are rock solid.
Second baseman Alex Amos leads the team’s starters in hitting, batting 0.275 while first baseman Caleb Perry is solid hitting 0.250 with 15 RBI. Nick Banman provides the pop with three home runs and 18 RBI. Keep an eye on right fielder Nico Popa. The freshman is batting 0.260, but leads the Panthers in stolen bases. The Panthers are 12th in the league in hitting , so at the plate is not where they do they’re damage. For comparison Virginia has 10 players with a minimum of 55 at bats hitting better than the 0.278 average by Pitt’s DH Yaya Chenthou (who leads the team).
The story for Virginia will be a couple of changes to the weekend rotation. After compiling a 2-0 record in mid-week games, Derek Casey will get an opportunity to start Friday night’s series opener. Many thought it would only be a matter of time before Casey filled into as weekend role, and he has pitched well this season. This moves Noah Murdock to the Saturday slot after making his weekend debut with a solid six inning, two run, four hit effort against Louisville last Friday night. It will be interesting to see if the changes ignite a spark from the Virginia starters.
The teams get after it Friday night at 6 P.M. Then they follow that with weekend afternoon games Saturday at 4 P.M. and Sunday 1 P.M. If you can’t make it out to Davenport, all three games will be televised on the ACC Network Extra.