The coronavirus pandemic has turned life upside down for many, both in sports and in life. KDKA's Rich Walsh has more on the Popa brothers.
BOB POMPEANI: With Pitt basketball looking to kind of rebuild, the Panther baseball team right now is thriving. They recently achieved their highest ranking in program history, currently ranked 14th in the country. Rich Walsh takes a look at why Pitt baseball is trending up.
RICH WALSH: The coronavirus pandemic has turned life upside down for many, both in sports and in life, but for a pair of brothers from the South Hills, there's been a silver lining to the past year of misery.
[CRACK OF THE BAT]
Nico Popa didn't expect to be playing baseball at Pitt this year. He also never thought he'd get a chance to play on the same team as his younger brother, Dom, but both of those unlikely events are taking place in Oakland right now.
MIKE BELL: One of the neat things, if there is a neat thing that the pandemic brought us, it provided extra opportunity for some seniors. And, obviously, that was Nico's senior year last year that was cut short. So the opportunity for him to come back but also to have a little brother coming in as a freshman probably is going to provide some memories that he never really would've even thought of.
RICH WALSH: Those memories are possible because Nico was given an extra year of eligibility, which allowed Dom to join him this season after a stellar career at Seton-LaSalle High School.
NICO POPA: It's really cool. I mean, I think, like he's been watching me my whole life, just the same with me watching him. So you know, we have a stronger connection than some other guys.
RICH WALSH: That connection has already produced results on the field. In the ninth inning of a crucial game against perennial powerhouse Florida State, younger brother Dom was inserted to pinch-hit when some magic happened.
MIKE BELL: He wears a pitch on the knee, gets to first base. We're down 2 runs. Next thing you know, Nico hits a home run. And one of the common themes within the coaching staff is, we need more Popas. You know? [LAUGHS]
RICH WALSH: Unfortunately for Bell, Dom is the youngest in the family, so there won't be any more Popas headed his way in the future, but in the present, everyone in blue and gold appreciates the family tradition.
MIKE BELL: They really fit our blue-collar, our gritty toughness mentality within our program and our team, and we love having them here.
RICH WALSH: The Popas and the Panthers are having a great season so far this year. Pitt baseball is ranked 15th in the country. For KDKA News, I'm Rich Walsh.