Penn State Baseball Drops Fourth Straight, Swept By Ohio State
Penn State’s shown time and again this season that it likes to play at home, with a mere 2-16 record away from Medlar Field, by far the biggest downfall for coach Rob Cooper’s squad this season. The Nittany Lions (8-18, 1-4 Big Ten) have some good hitters, a good bullpen, and they get some decent starts from the rotation, but have yet to find a winning formula on the road. The losing continued this weekend, as Penn State went to Columbus to face the Ohio State Buckeyes (22-7, 7-2 Big Ten) and was swept in the three-game series (7-1, 7-6, 8-7), extending its losing streak to four games.
How It Happened
Penn State looked to pick up where it left off against its first Big Ten opponent of the season, Indiana, and put up a fight. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, Ohio State came to play. Left-hander Nick Hedge (6.0 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 2 K’s) got the start and was rocked by the Buckeyes, allowing four runs in the first inning. Hedge was the only pitcher who allowed runs as freshman right-hander Schuyler Bates and senior righty Jared Fagnano combined to give up just one hit in the final two innings. Hedge is now 0-4 on the season.
There wasn’t much offense in this game from Penn State, as it only scored one run in the ninth inning. Sophomore catcher Alex Malinsky was the only player in the starting lineup to not record a hit, as there were eight total for Penn State. Ryan Richter scored the only run of the game on a wild pitch, so there were no RBIs either for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State had threatened in the fourth inning when there were men on first and second, but was halted by a double play. Another opportunity came in the sixth inning with runners on the corners with two outs, but shortstop Jim Haley flied out to end the inning. Penn State ultimately lost the first game, 7-1.
The second game of the series was much closer as Penn State was able to get its offense going late once again. However, errors were what ultimately cost the game for the Nittany Lions as they had four in the loss. Freshman left-hander Taylor Lehman (2.1 IP, 4 ER, 4 K’s, 1 BB) got another start for Penn State, and like most of his starts this season, it wasn’t pretty. Lehman was fine for the first two innings, but ended his night prematurely by allowing four runs, beginning with a lead-off homer, in the top of the third. Dakota Forsyth (3.1 IP, 3 H,2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) tried to help in relief, but only made matters worse. Marko Boricich, Jack Anderson, and Sal Biasi finished the game with Anderson taking the loss after a Penn State offensive rally.
Penn State only had one hit in the first three innings, and scored its first run of the game in the fourth. Four players had a multi-hit game in this one — Novak, Guers, Helsel, and Coates — and Guers led the team with two RBIs. Christian Helsel doubled to right center field directly following a Jim Haley triple to left field. Penn State scored in five straight innings starting in the fourth, and Guers brought in two RBIs in the fifth inning on a double to left center. In the sixth, Ryan Richter hit an RBI-single up the middle to bring home Jim Haley. Aaron Novak brought in a run of his own as he hit his fourth home run of the season in the seventh inning. Helsel then started off the eighth inning with a double and made his way to third and eventually scored on a James Coates single into right field. The Nittany Lions were able to tie it up, but could not hold on in the ninth as they allowed one run, falling 7-6.
Penn State had a chance to take the third game of series, but for the second game in a row it could not hold off the Buckeyes in the ninth inning. Errors were huge in the loss again as Penn State had four errors for the second straight game. Freshman right-hander Nick Distasio (5.0 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB) didn’t have the best start, but he did have run support earlier in the game. Sal Biasi (3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 K, 1 BB) came in for relief, but ultimately got the loss. Jack Anderson came in to get the final out of the game on his first batter.
Greg Guers had another good day at the plate as he went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and hit his third home run of the season. Ryky Smith would pace the Nittany Lions’ offense, going 4-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Penn State scored a run off a balk in the second inning with bases loaded and two outs, but Skerpon struck out to end the threat. The Nittany Lions had a big fourth inning as Guers hit a three-run home run with two outs to help Penn State shorten the deficit to one run, 5-4. Penn State would tack on another run to tie the game up 5-5 with an RBI-single down the left field line by Ryky Smith.
It was back-and-forth as Ohio State tied the game up in the bottom of the sixth and Penn State answered right back with two runs in the seventh thanks to an RBI groundout by J.J. White and another RBI for Ryky Smith from a double to left center. However, Sal Biasi could not hold the one-run lead for Penn State as Ohio State scored two runs in the ninth to break Penn State’s heart and sweep the series, 8-7.
Penn State failing to score the majority of its runs until the late innings of games is becoming a disturbing trend. This is exactly what happened in Sunday’s game and Penn State could not answer Ohio State’s big first inning. Coach Cooper changed up the lineup, moving Aaron Novak from clean-up to the lead-off spot. The change seemed to hamper Novak’s production slightly, but he still hit a home run in the series.
The Nittany Lions need to learn how to play better on the road, plain and simple. While they’ve been able to keep games close at home, they’ve been dominated on the road on multiple occasions. Coach Cooper also needs to see what he can do to raise freshman pitcher Taylor Lehman’s confidence with only one quality start this season. Expect to see a different team this weekend against a very familiar opponent.
Penn State will be home all week starting with a game against Bucknell on Tuesday, April 7 and Lafayette on April 8 at 6:30 p.m. The Lions will host Michigan for a three-game series this weekend, with the first game scheduled for Friday, April 9 at 5 p.m.
Photo: Mark Selders/GoPSUsports.com