The Popas and the Panthers are having a great season so far.By Rich Walsh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — 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.

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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 little brother, Dom. But both of those unlikely events are taking place in Oakland right now.

“One of the neat things, if there are any neat things, that the pandemic brought us is that it provided an opportunity for some seniors,” said Pitt coach Mike Bell. “Obviously, that was Nico’s senior year last year that was cut short. So the opportunity for him to come back but also have his little brother come in as a freshman will provide some memories that he never would have thought of.”

Those memories are possible because Nico was given an extra year of eligibility, which allowed Dom to join him this season after a stellar prep career at Seton-LaSalle High School.

“It’s really cool,” Nico said. “He’s been watching me my whole life like I’ve been watching him. So we have a stronger connection than some other guys.”

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That connection has already produced results on the field. In the ninth inning of a crucial game against Florida State, Dom was inserted to pinch-hit. And that’s when the magic happened.

“He wears a pitch on the knee, gets to first base. Next thing you know, Nico hits a home run,” Bell said. “One of the common themes within the coaching staff is we just need more Popas.”

Unfortunately for Bell, Dom is the youngest of 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.

“They really fit our blue-collar, toughness mentality within our program and our team and we love having them here,” said Bell.

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The Popas and the Panthers are having a great season so far. Pitt baseball is ranked No. 15.