Pitt Baseball Reaches ACC Tournament for 1st Time

Panthers Start Tourney Play Tuesday in Durham

Josh Rowntree
May 18, 2018 - 2:35 pm
Pitt CF Frank Maldonado

Pittsburgh Panthers

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For the first time in Pitt’s five-year history in the ACC, the baseball team will compete in the conference tournament. 

The Panthers entered Friday’s game against Clemson 27-23, with an 11-17 mark in the ACC, the most since 2014. 

“I think the most important thing is for us to take another step in the development of the program and the progression of the program,” said coach Joe Jordano, Pitt’s longest tenured head coach. "It’s an earned spot. It’s something we have to earn as a team to participate. I know my guys have been very focused on this and we look forward to that opportunity.”

The ACC is arguably the nation’s toughest baseball conference, with four teams currently ranked in the top 12 of the NCAA rankings. 

Senior pitcher Matt Pidich, who missed all of 2016 after Tommy John surgery, has bounced back to become Pitt’s top starting pitcher this season.

“It’s something that we all are looking forward to, getting down there and just playing and having fun,” he said. "I know for me and the other seniors, we’re all looking forward to this because this is our only time and our last time to get down there and do this. 

One of his fellow teammates in his final season is centerfielder Frank Maldonado, who has over 100 career RBIs with the program.

“It’s definitely sentimental,” said Maldonado, who has graduated from Pitt with degrees in marketing and finance. "I spent five years here and have loved every minute of it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s a great experience.”

The ACC Tournament begins Tuesday in Durham, North Carolina and features four days of pool play before the single-elimination semifinals and championship. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

Liam Sabino, a junior transfer from SEC power Vanderbilt, has broken out as the team’s best hitter, clubbing 16 home runs entering Friday.

"We have a good group of guys that like each other on and off the field,” Sabino said. "We hang out together all the time and we have good camaraderie. I think it shows on the field.” 

That fellowship has fueled a group now motivated to become the first Pitt program to win an ACC tournament. 

"We set out this season to accomplish something that’s never happened here,” Maldonado added. We’ve done that this far and we look forward to making more history here."