Penn State Baseball Splits Doubleheader With No. 21 Indiana
When the Nittany Lions came home from their southern road trip, I’m sure they thought they would be through with the snow. Well, Mother Nature had one last snowstorm in her, canceling Penn State’s Friday game and forcing a doubleheader for Sunday. The first of the doubleheader went into extra innings for the third time in four games, with Penn State falling 4-3 in 12. The team was able to pull through after being down for a good part of the second game to beat Indiana 13-7. The win marked the program’s first over a ranked opponent since April of 2012.
How It Happened
In the first game of the Sunday doubleheader, Penn State was able to hold their own against the dominant pitching staff of Indiana. Sophomore LHP Nick Hedge (5.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 K, 2 BB) took the mound for the Nittany Lions and had a shaky start. In the second inning, Hedge allowed four runs — while only two were earned runs because of an error in center — but did not allow any more afterward. The bullpen — Anderson, Biasi, Distasio — was solid up until the 12th inning when freshman RHP Nick Distasio allowed a run to seal the deal for the Hoosiers.
The bats for the Nittany Lions were not able to find their groove until the fourth inning when they scored three runs. DH Christian Helsel was able to knock in two runs with a single and eventually scored from a sac bunt by third baseman Ryky Smith. Penn State was able to score a fourth run in the fifth inning when RF Aaron Novak singled into center, bringing home Taylor Skerpon. Sophomore shortstop Jim Haley led the team in hits, going 3-for-6, and Helsel drove in two runs along with Novak and Smith.
The second game was more favorable for Penn State as it beat Indiana, 13-7. Freshman LHP Taylor Lehman (3.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 K’s, 2 BB) had another rough start for the Nittany Lions, allowing two runs in the first, one in the third, and two in the fourth with one run scored off an error. The bullpen in the second game — Boricich and Mullin — was solid as the two pitchers combined for 5.2 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 4 K’s and 1 BB. Sophomore RHP Tom Mullin received the win.
Indiana took the lead early once again, as the Hoosiers went ahead 7-0 before the fourth inning. Once the Nittany Lions walked up to the plate in the bottom of the fourth, it was their game. They beat Indiana in the hits category, 13 to 10. Penn State scored 13 runs in five innings, led by Jim Haley (3-for-5, 1 R, 3 RBIs) along with Helsel (3-f0r-4, 1 run, 2 RBIs) and Novak (1-for-4, 2 runs, 2 RBIs). Penn State took the lead in the eighth inning by scoring seven runs, starting the inning with bases loaded and Haley at the plate. Haley smacked a three-RBI triple into left field followed by three more runs to beat Indiana and split the series with the Hoosiers.
The Nittany Lions had some clutch bats in both games against the Hoosiers, but the blemish for them in this series was the starting pitchers. The two starters combined for 9.0 IP, 15 hits, 10 runs, seven ER, three K’s and four walks. That is something that coach Rob Cooper does not like to see, especially after a stellar outing by Geoff Boylston against Canisius. Lehman has not had the most dominant freshman campaign, but it can only get better from here. The bats at the top of the order were very good yet again. Coach Cooper hasn’t changed the order in the past five games — which is a good sign.
Penn State will remain home for a game on Wednesday, March 25 against Villanova at 6:30 p.m. before starting a three-game series against Central Connecticut this weekend.