Penn State Baseball Drops Two Of Three To Michigan In Weekend Series
As Penn State baseball (10-20, 2-6 Big Ten) prepared for its final series of the 10-game home stand, it was rewarded with a great weekend forecast. From Friday afternoon to Sunday, the sun was always out and it brought some more fans to the ballpark than usual.
The Nittany Lions took on Michigan (21-14, 6-6 Big Ten) for a three-game series and looked to continue their dominance at home as they were 7-2 before the series. In the first game they rocked Michigan for an 11-1 victory, rallied but came up short in a 5-3 loss in the second, and drooped the final game, 8-3.
How It Happened
As State College saw a rainy morning on Friday, no one knew if the game — to be televised on BTN — would still happen. Luckily for Penn State, the rain tapered off and they were able to show off their prowess at home against the Wolverines. Nick Hedge (7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 K’s, 3 BB) was brilliant for the Nittany Lions as he didn’t allow a run and received his first win of the season (1-4) and his first career Big Ten win. Hedge was able to place pitches he wasn’t able to previously in the past, while also having some nice defensive plays that helped lead Penn State to the victory. Jared Fagnano came in for the final two innings while only allowing a hit and one run.
Penn State’s offense couldn’t be stopped in this game as five out of the team’s nine starters had at least one RBI, while three players had a multi-RBI game. Senior Taylor Skerpon (2-for-4, 2 H, 2 R, 3 RBIs) was the leader of the offense in this game as he had three RBIs, followed by two-RBI games from Ryky Smith and Nick Graham. Aaron Novak and Ryan Richter also chipped in an RBI in the game.
Penn State was able to put this game away early as they got off to a good start. The Lions were up 5-1 by the fifth and continued to add on to the lead. Their biggest inning was in the sixth as they scored four runs to take a 9-1 lead. The first five batters were able to get on-base thanks to a couple of hits, a walk, and an error. Michigan helped score a run as they walked Graham which allowed a man to score, and Skerpon brought home three on a single to center. Penn State finished off the game in the eighth with an RBI-double by Richter down the left field line and a sacrifice fly by Graham. Penn State was able to take their second Big Ten win of the season as it beat Michigan, 11-1.
Medlar Field looked different on Saturday as the high temperature was 59 degrees and the sun was shining, bringing in a lot more fans. The ballpark saw a season-high attendance of 1,254 fans that saw their Nittany Lions fall to Michigan, 5-3. Taylor Lehman (5.0 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 4 K’s, 2 BB) got the start for Penn State and didn’t look like he did in his previous start. Lehman wasn’t all over the place, but Michigan did get into a rhythm against the freshman as they scored five times against him. Sal Biasi and Dakota Forsyth came in for the final three innings of reliefs as they allowed a combined two hits with no runs, striking out two (Biasi) while walking three. Lehman received the loss and is now 1-3 on the season.
The offense was up and down in this game as it wouldn’t get a hit for a streak of innings, but then have innings where it had a chance to take the lead or tie it up. Greg Guers (1-for-4, 1 H, 1 R, 2 RBIs) was the leader of the offense in Saturday’s game as he hit his fourth home run of the season in the ninth inning. Ryky Smith (1-for-3, 1 H, 1 RBI) got a hit in the second which provided Penn State with its first run of the game. The team had eight hits in total, but showed they couldn’t capitalize in some innings.
Penn State got down early in the game as Michigan scored two runs in the second inning. Penn State was able to score a run in the second off four hits thanks to a Smith RBI-single right in the gap between first and second, but couldn’t do much else until the ninth inning. Penn State left ten players on base in this one and couldn’t capitalize on times they should’ve scored. In the fourth, there were runners at second and third with two outs and the team was down by two. A good hit would bring home both runners and tie the game, but instead the ball was hit right to the shortstop for an easy out to end the inning. In the ninth with a runner on, Greg Guers smacked his fourth home run of the season into the right field bleachers, but couldn’t rally around it as Penn State fell to Michigan, 5-3.
Just like Saturday, the weather was in favor for some baseball on Sunday. Usually you would’nt find a blemish in the Penn State bullpen especially at home, but it’s exactly what happened on Sunday as the Lions fell to the Wolverines, 8-3.
Nick Disasio (5.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB) did all he could in the game as he allowed three runs while only having two runs of run support to work with on two hits by the Nittany Lions’s offense. The relief wasn’t stellar as usual as the bullpen — Boricich and Anderson — allowed five runs (three earned) on three hits and walked three. Fagnano came in the ninth and provided Penn State with its only 1-2-3 inning of the game. Distasio received the loss and is now 1-4.
The offense again was inconsistent at the beginning of the game as it could only get two hits in the first seven innings, but it was able to get two runs out of it. Christian Helsel (2-for-4, 1 R, 1 RBI) led the offense as he was able to drive in one run and scored another on a wild pitch in the fourth. He provided two of the team’s total six total hits and the only RBI of the game for the Nittany Lions. Aaron Novak was able to get another hit, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
Penn State could only muster up two runs on two hits in the first seven innings, which which is not something you want to see. The Lions lost control of the game towards the seventh and eighth as they went from being down 3-2 to trailing 8-2 going into the bottom of the eighth. They got into a rhythm in the eighth inning as they got a hit from Novak and later an RBI-double down the left field line by Helsel, but Riotto struck out to end the eighth and left two runners stranded. In the ninth, Penn State tried to get some kind of a roll going as they got two hits in the first three batters of the inning. Penn State wouldn’t be able to capitalize, however, and would drop the final game of the series, 8-3.
Things looked to be going Penn State’s way as the first game of the series was a major offensive victory, scoring 11 runs on 11 hits while also getting good support from Nick Hedge. There were no bad takeways from Friday’s game; the team brought good situational hitting and didn’t let up when they already had a big lead. One of Penn State’s biggest downfall is their lack of ability to score runs early. They continue to wait until the late innings to score and most of the time it’s too late. This team is also still reliant on its relief, so expect Cooper to try and raise the confidence of his starters for the coming weeks. A good note was Aaron Novak extending his hitting streak to 11 games after the series, continuing to put on a show this season.
The Nittany Lions will be heading to West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers on Tuesday, April 14 at 6:05 p.m. before coming home on Wednesday, April 15 to face Bucknell at 6:30 p.m.
Image: Mark Selders/GoPSUsports.com