The Panthers – the No. 3 seed in the tournament – advance in the winners’ bracket, where they will face the winner of Wednesday’s second semifinal game between Cincinnati and St. John’s. Louisville, the No. 6 seed, will face the Cincinnati-St. John’s loser in an elimination game Thursday at 10 a.m.
Smith hit solo home runs – his ninth and 10th of the season – in the first and third innings as the Panthers took an early 4-0 lead, which proved to be plenty for Iannazzo. The southpaw struck out four batters without a walk and kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard until the eighth inning to improve to 8-3.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on Smith’s line drive home run to left. Pitt made it 2-0 in the second inning on Phil Konieczny’s two-out, RBI single, which brought home Rick Devereaux, who led off the inning with a base hit.
Pitt doubled its lead on consecutive pitches in the bottom of the third, when Smith’s second home run of the day found the bullpen and David Chester hit the next pitch out to left, making it 4-0.
The Panthers tacked on three more in the sixth inning as Travis Whitmore smacked an RBI triple to the rightfield corner and came home when the Cardinal catcher couldn’t handle a throw to the plate on Casey Roche’s grounder to third. Roche ended up at second on the error and came home on Evan Owsald’s base hit to make it 7-0.
The Cardinals got two runs back in the top of the eighth when Alex Chittenden and Drew Haynes led off with base hits. Chittenden came home on Jeff Gardner’s grounder to third, and Haynes came in on Ryan Wright’s base hit, but Iannazzo got cleanup hitter Stewart Ijames on a fly ball to right to get out of the inning.
Whitmore went 2 for 4 with two runs scored and two RBI for the Panthers, who improved to 33-21 with the win.
Louisville (29-28) was led offensively by Wright, Chittenden and third baseman Cade Stallings, who had two hits each. Cardinal starting pitcher Derek Self took the loss after he allowed four runs and seven hits in four innings, evening his record at 3-3.