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Baseball Drops First Game of Liberty Invitational to Western Carolina

Earlier this week, Penn State was hanging tough with the nation’s seventh-best team thanks to a career outing from starting pitcher Geoff Boylston. Three days later, the Lions are staring at another losing streak, having been outscored 17-5 in the last two games.

Penn State dropped its third straight game on Friday, falling to Western Carolina 4-2  in the first game of the Liberty Baseball Invitational in Lynchburg, Va.

How It Happened

Thursday’s 13-3 beatdown at the hands of No. 7 South Carolina aside, the Lions pitching staff has continued to put forth solid outings each time they take the mound. Against Western Carolina, Nick Hedge (0-3) kept the Lions in the game, yielding three runs on five hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings, with six strikeouts for the second consecutive week.

The Catamounts did rattle Hedge early, however, scoring in the opening frame. After Hedge plunked two runners and surrendered a single to put the bases loaded, Western Carolina’s Kramer Ferrell hit a sacrifice fly to right field to move ahead 1-0. Hedge induced a ground out to first to limit the damage, stranding two runners on base.

Penn State answered in the bottom of the third thanks to an RBI single by left fielder James Coates, plating DH Tyler Kendall after his double gave the Nittany Lions their first hit of the game. Coates advanced to second on a throwing error, but was stranded when Ryky Smith struck out swinging to end the inning.

Western Carolina would respond with their biggest scoring output of the game, adding two more runs in the top of the fourth on an RBI single and sacrifice fly to move ahead 3-1. After the Catamounts scored an insurance run off of reliever Sal Biasi (2.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K) in the top of the ninth, Penn State would rally for one run during their last licks on an RBI single by shortstop Jim Haley. The last-ditch effort would fall short, as third baseman Christian Helsel grounded out on a fielder’s choice to end the game, 4-2.

Player of the Game

Nick Hedge. The junior surrendered a season-low three runs on just five hits, and despite allowing two walks and plunking three batters, Hedge fanned six to escape some big jams and keep the Lions within shouting distance.

Game Notes

  • Aaron Novak’s hitting streak came to an end on Friday at nine games.
  • Originally scheduled for 1 p.m., the game was moved to 11:30 a.m. to avoid inclement weather for the second game of the day between Liberty and Western Carolina.
  • Friday’s game was the first meeting in history between the two schools.
  • Penn State continued a disappointing trend of falling behind early in games. The Lions have been outscored 29-1 in the first two innings this season.

What’s Next?

Penn State will face Liberty at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to conclude the tournament with LHP Taylor Lehman (0-2, 11.70 ERA) slated to start.

Photo: Mark Selders/GoPSUsports.com

About the Author

CJ Doon

CJ is a senior journalism major from Long Island and Onward State's Sports Editor. He is a third-generation Penn Stater, and his grandfather wrestled for the university back in the 1930s under coach Charlie “Doc” Speidel. Besides writing, one of his favorite activities is making sea puns. You can follow him on Twitter @CJDoon, and send your best puns to [email protected], just for the halibut.

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