Penn State Baseball Sweeps Rutgers On Senior Weekend
Penn State loves to play in Happy Valley, and its record shows. The Nittany Lions are 17-26 (5-12 Big Ten), and 13 of those 17 wins came at Medlar Field. The Lions were home one last time to face a Rutgers team that was just below Penn State in the Big Ten standings, in dead last. Penn State was able to sweep the series on a beautiful senior weekend by scores of 8-1, 12-10, and 8-5.
How It Happened
Penn State had no trouble in its first game against the Scarlet Knights, blasting Rutgers 8-1. Nick Hedge (6.0 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 3 K’s, 1 BB) was impressive on the mound as he allowed only one run in six innings of work. Hedge was provided with some nice run support in the game, keeping the pressure off of the sophomore’s shoulders. Jack Anderson (3.0 IP, 2 H) came in for relief and did an excellent job holding the Scarlet Knights off the board in three innings. Anderson received his third save of the season.
The Nittany Lions benefitted from big fourth and seventh innings. In each, Penn State scored four runs on three hits. Aaron Novak and Greg Guers had multi-hit games while Jim Haley, Nick Riotto, and Tyler Kendall had multi-RBI games. RBIs were also attributed to Guers and J.J. White. It was a nice hitting day overall for the Lions as only two player in the starting lineup finished the game without a hit.
The two big innings paved the way for the Nittany Lions’s victory. In the fourth, sophomore Guers led off the inning and smacked his team-leading seventh home run of the season. Following the home run, Novak was walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. One batter later, White singled through the left side, bringing home Novak. Riotto walked and Kendall hit a two-RBI double into left center to end the explosive inning.
Penn State would then only allow one run in the sixth inning, shortening its lead to 4-1. The Lions would extend their lead, however, with another big inning in the seventh. Nick Graham started off the innings with a lead-off walk, followed by a Guers single into left. Novak then walked to leave the bases loaded for Jim Haley, and his hot bat didn’t disappoint. Haley rocketed a double into left field that brought home Guers and Graham. A couple batters later, Nick Riotto drove home Novak and Haley off a single into right field.
In the second game, Penn State fell far in the first inning just to come back from a 10-run deficit to defeat the Scarlet Knights, 12-10. Freshman Taylor Lehman (1.2 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 2 K’s, 3 BB) was on the mound and tallied another disappointing start in his freshman campaign. Lehman allowed all five of his runs in the first inning and hit two batters. He was quickly replaced by fellow freshman Nick Distasio (2.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 K), a move that didn’t help the situation. By the time the two freshman were done pitching, Penn State was down 9-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Tom Mullin, Marko Boricich, and Jack Anderson came in for the final five innings. Mullin allowed the only two hits and one run during that span while Boricich struck out the only batter he faced and Anderson struck out one while walking two. Thanks to great run support, Tom Mullin (4-0) remained undefeated and received his fourth win while Anderson went back-to-back games with a save, his third and fourth of the season.
There were many offensive leaders in this game, but four most saliently stood out: Guers (2-for-5, 1 R, 4 RBIs), Nick Riotto (3-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBIs), Taylor Skerpon (3-for-4, 3 R, 2 RBIs), and Jim Haley (4-for-5, 3 R). Even though Haley did not have any RBIs, he still came out of the game with two singles, a double and a triple, leaving him just a home run shy of the cycle. Other players that contributed to the offensive show were Graham and Novak, each providing three more RBIs for the team.
Penn State fell behind early and had to play catch-up as its as it trailed 5-0 after the first inning. The Nittany Lions were able to score one in the second inning, but could have scored more as they ended the inning with the bases loaded. Then, the Lions were able to put up seven runs on six hits in the fourth to bring themselves back into the game. The inning started well with four straight batters getting on base, each scoring a run. Guers would then clear the bases with a deep three-RBI triple into center field to cut the deficit to 9-5. They weren’t finished yet, as Novak hit an RBI-single into right to bring home Guers. Jim Haley singled his way on base which was followed by a Riotto two-RBI double to end a huge inning.
The Lions would keep this momentum for the rest of the game as they scored one more in the fifth off an RBI-single up the middle by Guers. They would then take their first lead of the game from another big inning in the sixth. Penn State scored three runs on five hits thanks to a Riotto RBI-single up the middle, a Skerpon RBI-single into center, and a Graham RBI-single up the left side. The Lions ended the game with a season-high 18 hits, and Guers extended his hit-streak to 15 games.
Game three of the series was back-and-forth, seeing four lead changes. Dakota Forsyth (5.1 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 4 K’s, 1 BB) had a solid outing on the mound, and had the win when Penn State was up 2-0 heading into the sixth until he allowed two runs and ended with the no decision. Sal Biasi came in for an inning of relief and allowed two runs while striking out two and walking two. Boricich came in for a third of an inning and saw four batters as he allowed one hit, walked one, and hit one. Jared Fagnano was next to pitch for an inning and allowed one run on three hits. Jack Anderson was the final pitcher of the day for Penn State and had solid stuff en route to the win, making him 4-3 on the year.
The Penn State offense looked good in this one as well. Three players had multi-hit games — Haley, Novak, Kendall — and Guers, Haley, Novak, White, Kendall (2), and Riotto had at least one RBI. The team had 10 hits and was able to score eight runs, a pretty solid overall offensive output.
Penn State came out swinging right out of the gate as Guers hit a leadoff home run on the very first pitch, making that his team-leading eighth of the year and extending his hit-streak to 16. Later in the inning Kendall drove in a run with a a sac fly into left field. The team wouldn’t score again until the seventh where it had fallen behind 4-2. The inning started off strong as Guers got hit, Haley walked, and Guers came in to score off an error by Rutgers. Riotto then grounded out which allowed Haley to score and Kendall got another RBI from a single up the middle. Penn State then scored three in the eighth inning thanks to back-to-back-to-back RBI-hits by Haley, Novak, and White. Jim Haley hit an RBI-double to left center, followed by an RBI-triple to center by Aaron Novak, and then an RBI-double to left by J.J. White. Penn State would keep the lead and sweep the series, 8-5.
Even though the team will be losing the likes of seniors like Taylor Skerpon and Aaron Novak, its happy to see young talents like Greg Guers and Jim Haley hitting their stride and showing what they can do for the future. Guers hit two home runs in the series, while Jim Haley was a home run away from the cycle in the second game. No one expected Guers to be hitting the way he is: leading the team in home runs, RBIs, runs, doubles, stolen bases, and slugging percentage. Guers is second on the team in triples and hits, and third in batting average. Haley has made waves as well, as he is second on the team in average, leads the team in triples, is tied for second in stolen bases, fifth in OBP, and third in hits. Coach Cooper must be pleased with the work of his young guys and should be excited for the future.
Penn State will be on the road to finish the season against Michigan State for a three-game series starting on May 8 at 3:30 p.m., followed by a three-game series at Purdue starting on May 14 at 6:00 p.m.
Photo: Mark Selders/GoPSUSports.com