FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
PITTSBURGH—Pitt baseball’s inaugural ACC season will feature seven series against opponents who participated in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Panthers’ head coach Joe Jordano announced Thursday.
“I really like this schedule,” said Jordano. “I think what you try to do is position your team to play against competition that is capable of playing, and has been successful, in the NCAA Tournament because that’s our goal. That’s where we want to be at the end of the year so to put us in those type of environments is beneficial not only to us as coaches and players but for our program as well and we’ll continue to do that in the future.”
“We are also extremely excited about our first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference,” Jordano continued. “In the ACC, there are no teams that are weak, so every weekend is going to be a great challenge but we’re really looking forward to this level of competition and our guys will be ready for it.”
The Panthers’ home schedule features five weekend ACC homestands as well as midweek games against traditional regional opponents, with the ACC schedule presenting incredible challenges for Pitt in its inaugural season. Five of the 10 conference opponents the Panthers will face completed the 2013 campaign with RPI ratings in the top 20 of college baseball (North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Miami (FL)), and two others placed within the top 40 (Georgia Tech and Notre Dame).
Pitt opens its season with a southern swing, opening up with a perennial post-season contender in Coastal Carolina, which has appeared in each of the last seven NCAA tournaments, winning regional championships in two of their last six appearances (2008 and 2010). The USC-Upstate Tournament will once again play host to the Panthers in mid-February, where they will face off with USC-Upstate, Butler and Fordham. The 11th annual Keith LeClair Classic will play host Pitt for its final tune-up before the ACC schedule, where Western Kentucky, Ohio State, and East Carolina will be the opponents.
The Duke Blue Devils will be the first ACC opponent to visit Charles L. Cost Field at the Petersen Sports Complex in mid-March, along with weekend visits from Georgia Tech, Virginia, Clemson and Maryland. Those teams combined for an average of 37.4 wins last season and an average RPI of 31, as Virginia advanced to and hosted a Super Regional against the eventual NCAA runner-up Mississippi State.
On the road, the Panthers will face similar challenges. The schedule is highlighted by trips to North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami and Notre Dame, as well as a jog to the north to play old Big East rival Boston College. Both the Hurricanes and Hokies appeared in the NCAA tournament, with the Tar Heels finishing off the season with a trip to Omaha, before falling to eventual national champion UCLA.
At the end of April, the Panthers will hit the road to face Arkansas Pine-Bluff for a three game series before the home-stretch of ACC play. The team will also make a trip to Presbyterian over spring break before it begins the meat of its home schedule.
In addition to the ACC schedule, Pitt will play host to regional opponents in its mid-week games. 2012 College World Series participant Kent State will visit Cost Field, as well as Youngstown State and Akron.
The Backyard Brawl will also continue for the 23rd consecutive year, as the Panthers will face off against West Virginia for the 136th and 137th times since 1939.
The ACC Championship will take place May 20-25 at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C. The tournament will showcase the top 10 ACC teams and will feature two games on May 20, followed by three games per day in a round-robin format from Wednesday through Saturday, May 21-24. The championship game between the two pool winners will be played on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a difficult schedule but we’ll be ready for it,” Jordano said. “I can’t guarantee results but I can assure you that we are going to play hard every game and we’re going to put ourselves, hopefully, in a position to make a run at the end of the season.”
Pitt returns 16 letterwinners, including six of the nine bats in the lineup and two-thirds of the weekend rotation, from a team that won a school-record 42 games in 2013.
Since 2000, Pitt has been one of the premier programs in the Northeast, winning over 450 games and producing 13 All-Americans, 58 All-Big East honorees and seeing 53 players sign professional contracts.