For the first time in more than 6 years, the Virginia Cavalier baseball team is riding a four game losing streak after falling 9-2 on Tuesday to in state rival, Old Dominion. April, 2016 was the last time UVA lost four in row when they dropped the final two in a series against Louisville, a similar midweek game to Old Dominion, then fell in a series opener to NC State. The 2016 team wouldn’t lose more than 2 in a row the rest of the year, and would host a regional, before losing to East Carolina and William and Mary in the NCAA Tournament.
This season, after reaching a ranking the program had not seen in seven years, the Cavaliers were swept last weekend by Miami’s strong hitting and pitching.
Unfortunately, the Pitt teams of past that would roll over to superior opponents aren’t on the schedule and are entering the weekend having won their last three ACC series including taking two of three from Louisville just two weeks ago.
At 7-7 in the ACC and 19-12 overall, the Panthers find themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble for the first time in more than two decades. Pitt hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1995, but are looking to make program history this year by making the ACC Tournament for the second straight season.
Senior Matt Gilbertson and Junior Billy Corcoran are two of Pitt’s weekend starters and have been more than serviceable in ACC play totaling a 3.03 and 3.00 ERA respectively. Friday night starter, Gilbertson, has a 1.24 WHIP and a 4-1 record in the ACC this year thanks in large part to a 26-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 32.2 innings. He’s gone at least 6 innings in his last four starts against Virginia Tech, Clemson, Louisville, and Boston College and did not surrender more than three runs in any of those appearances. Sunday starter Corcoran has similar numbers with a 0.93 WHIP and a .220 batting average against while only walking 3 in 27 innings of ACC play. Corcoran doesn’t have quite the inning count that Gilbertson does, but he did throw a complete game 4 hitter against Louisville just two weeks ago.
Fortunately for the UVA bats that have somewhat struggled of late, the rest of the Pitt staff has struggled in ACC play with a 6.96 team ERA and 1.61 WHIP. ACC opponents are batting .302 against them and have already hit 27 home runs. If the Hoos can get past Gilbertson and Corcoran, the Cavaliers should be looking good.
While the Pitt staff has struggled, the Pitt lineup has tried to pick up the pieces batting .290 as a team with an .894 OPS in ACC play. They’ve averaged more than 8.5 runs per game over the last three ACC series and were simply outslugged in the two games they’ve lost in that stretch.
After being third team All-ACC in 2018, Senior Ron Washington, Jr. is having himself quite the season at the plate batting .358 with a 1.282 OPS in ACC play. He is also leading the Panthers with 7 HRs, 16 RBI, and a .849 slugging percentage in his 14 ACC games, which is good for 2nd in the conference in home runs and third in slugging.
The Pitt offense has allowed the Panthers to run up the 7-7 record and UVA should absolutely view it as a threat, but it is not what they saw last weekend in Miami. At the same time, the Panther staff is nowhere near as daunting as the Hurricanes’ staff that held the highly regarded UVA offense in check last weekend. This should be a good weekend for the Hoos to get back on track before hitting the back half of the season.