Prior to this series, scouting reports and analysis of the University of Pittsburgh showed a completely solid team with the capability to creating runs and shutting down opposing offenses. Their lone flaw, it seemed, came from a bullpen experiencing struggles through the 2016 season's first month or so. When the Panthers were at their best, their starting pitching spun quality starts and avoided having to go deep into their pitching staff.
On Friday, they did exactly that.
Aaron Sandefur pitched a complete game shutout for the Panthers, evening the three game series with Boston College through a 5-0 victory. Sandefur faced just four over the minimum, scattering five hits and not walking a single batter while striking out 12. He picked up his second victory of the year to even his record at 2-2.
Sandefur didn't mess around settling onto the hill, retiring the first eight Eagles he faced. Of those eight, he struck out three - one in each inning - and didn't allow a base runner until Logan Hoggarth singled through the left side with two outs in the top of the third. Even though Birdball followed that up with a single to center off the bat of Jake Palomaki, Joe Cronin struck out looking to end the third, keeping BC off the scoreboard.
Through the first two innings, BC's Jesse Adams wasn't as dominant as Sandefur, but he managed to keep the Panthers off the board with his own brand of pitching. In the bottom of the first, he hit Matt Johnson to lead off the game, then walked Charles LeBlanc to put two on with nobody out. Alex Kowalczyk sacrificed them over with a bunt, putting two in scoring position with nobody out.
Adams got out of the jam with a little help from his friends. He threw a wild pitch facing Ron Sherman, but catcher Stephen Sauter recovered quick enough to deliver a strike to the covering Adams, who tagged Johnson, who was breaking for home. With two outs, Adams walked another, but he got out of the inning by inducing a grounder to David Yanni.
Adams settled down for the second inning, retiring Pittsburgh in order, and he got an out when he struck out Johnson in the third with one on after delivering a walk. But that's when he ran into issues again, this time with Pitt capitalizing. LeBlanc singled to left, putting runners on first and second with one out, and two wild pitches brought one run home. With LeBlanc on third, Kowalczyk hit a sacrifice fly to score him, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Adams rebounded for a solid fourth inning, once again putting down the Panthers in order, but he ran into more trouble in the fifth. Frank Maldonado doubled to lead off the inning, advancing to third when Yaya Chentouf grounded out to short. Johnson then hit a sacrifice back to the box, bringing in Pitt's third run.
He wouldn't make it out of the inning. With the bases empty, LeBlanc singled to center, and a balk sent him to second. That chased Adams from the game in favor of burly righty Thomas Lane. The freshman welcomed himself to the game by hitting Kowalczyk with a pitch, but he induced a grounder to Sherman to end the inning.
Unfortunately for Lane, he wouldn't make it through the sixth. He recorded an out to start the inning, but Lane walked Caleb Parry and Aaron Schnurbush. That enabled Maldonado to single a run in, making it 4-0, Pitt. BC went back to their bullpen, bringing in Bobby Skogsbergh, but Chentouf greeted him with a single up the middle to score Schnurbusch, making it 5-0 in favor of the hosts.
While the offense was using small ball to create runs, Sandefur continued to pitch lights out. Starting with the end of the third, he retired seven in a row, setting Boston College down in order in the fourth and fifth. Logan Hoggarth broke up the string in the sixth, singling towards the shortstop, and the Eagles got a second runner on to start the inning when Palomaki bunted himself aboard. But Cronin hit a 1-1 pitch to third, and Johnson made a tremendous play to stab it, flipping to second for a 5-4 double play. Donovan Casey grounded out to end the inning, and another threat went by the wayside.
Sandefur dominated the Eagle bats late, striking out both Johnny Adams and Hoggarth in the eighth, then K'ing the side in the ninth. In all, he retired the final six men he faced, including five by way of strikeout. In the ninth, it came against the bulk of the BC order, getting Cronin looking and both Casey and Sauter swinging.
In all, Sandefur finished with 12 K's and didn't walk a single hitter. He was extremely efficient, throwing only 112 pitches, and he faced only four over the minimum at 31. He scattered five hits in the shutout - two of which came from Palomaki and two of which came from Hoggarth. The hitters batting betwen second and eighth for BC went a combined 1-24 with the lone hit coming from pinch hitter Chris Balogh in the eighth. In all, BC only left four men on base, a tribute to how strongly he pitched.
The BC pitching, in contrast, didn't pitch poorly but would've needed to sustain a perfect pace in order to top their opponent. Adams (2-3) lasted 4.2 innings, striking out three and walking three, giving up three runs on three hits and taking the loss. Lane went 0.2 innings, giving up a couple of runs while walking two and not striking out any, and Skogsbergh gave up just one hit in facing two batters. He was not charged with a run, though an inherited run did score.
Zach Stromberg pitched the final two innings, striking out one and not allowing a base runner.
With the series now even at one game apiece, the Eagles will now duel in a rubber match on Saturday before traveling home for the Easter holiday. First pitch is slated for 1 PM, with freshman phenom Jacob Stevens opposing Pittsburgh ace TJ Zeuch.