Baseball Goes 2-2 On Opening Weekend, Sweeps Army In Double Header
Penn State baseball traveled to Cary, North Carolina to take part in the USA Baseball Complex Tournament during THON weekend. The Nittany Lions left North Carolina starting the season 2-2, with both wins coming in the double header against Army.
How It Happened
Game 1 – Monmouth
The first game of the season didn’t go the way Penn State would’ve liked. Coach Rob Cooper showcased a different lineup than what was expected. Returning players like third baseman Christian Helsel and shortstop Jim Haley were switched to different positions — second base and third base, respectively. Nevertheless, the defense was consistent. The team only gave up one error in the game by freshman infielder Conlin Hughes, who started at shortstop.
The Nittany Lions racked up seven hits, but were only able to get one run across thanks to an RBI single by Hughes. Sophomore Taylor Lehman (6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 K, 2 BB) got the start for Penn State and had four strong innings in the first, second, fifth, and sixth as he allowed only allowed one hit in each. However, the third and fourth innings were where the Hawks had the edge. Lehman earned his first loss of the season.
Monmouth scored runs in the third and fourth, and Penn State couldn’t catch up as it fell in its 2016 season opener 3-1.
Games 2 & 3 – Army
On Saturday, Penn State faced off against Army for a double header. The Nittany Lions took both games over the Black Knights by scores of 5-4 and 11-0.
The first game was a bit more competitive for Penn State, but it still received its first win of the 2016 season. Penn State’s offense scored five runs on 10 hits. Jim Haley provided his team with two of the five RBIs from an RBI single, along with an RBI from Greg Guers, Nick Riotto, and Austin Riggins.
Sophomore Sal Biasi (6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 8 K, 1 BB) got the start for the Nittany Lions in the first game of the double header after being a closer his entire freshman season. Biasi’s first-ever regular season start was an impressive one. Biasi commanded his pitches well as he stuck out eight batters in six innings. Biasi recorded the win while Jack Anderson got his first save of the season.
The Nittany Lions led 5-1 heading into the eighth inning when Marko Boricich’s second inning of relief went rough in a hurry. Army scored three runs to start the eighth inning before Anderson stepped onto the mound to finish up the game. Penn State avoided a scare and recorded its first win of the season by a final of 5-4.
Game two of the double header with Army was more in Penn State’s favor than the first, thanks to stellar pitching and a consistent offensive showing. The Nittany Lions produced often as they scored two in the second, one in the third, three in the sixth, and five in a tremendous ninth inning. Penn State swept Army and took the second game 11-0.
Much of the production came at the hands of freshman catcher Ryan Sloninger, who went 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs and one walk, with his RBI walk in the second inning and a 3-RBI double in the ninth. Five players — Hughes, Guers, Haley, Riggins, and Nick Graham — also provided Penn State with an RBI.
The Nittany Lions’ pitching display was a main reason for the dominating performance. Freshman Justin Hagenman (7.0 IP, 4 H, 6 K) got his first start on the mound for Penn State and didn’t disappoint. Hagenman made some noise before the season started as he was the first U.S. pitcher to earn a win against a Cuban National Team in Penn State’s 9-3 win over Mayabeque last November.
Hagenman’s dominating regular season debut kept Army far away, which allowed for the offense to increase the lead. Coach Rob Cooper also brought in infielder Christian Helsel to pitch and he did very well. Helsel pitched one inning, allowed one hit, and struck out one batter. Jake Pilewicz finished the game with a nice final inning and gave Penn State its second win of the season. Hagenman recorded his first regular season win of his collegiate career.
Game 4 – Bryant
The fourth game for Penn State in the USA Baseball Complex Tournament was riddled with mistakes and cost the Nittany Lions the chance to leave North Carolina with an above .500 record. The Nittany Lions fell to Bryant University 3-1.
The offense wasn’t as consistent as it was in its previous game against Army. Four Nittany Lions recorded at least one hit; Jim Haley led the pack going 3-for-5 with Penn State’s lone RBI. Penn State’s only score came in the fifth inning courtesy of an RBI single through the left side to cut Bryant’s lead to 2-1. Unfortunately, Penn State couldn’t find a rhythm and couldn’t come up with any more runs.
Senior Nick Hedge (4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 K) took the mound and only looked shaky in a couple of innings. Hedge allowed his two runs in the first and fifth inning, but his team couldn’t build him any run support which led to the loss. Nick Distasio, Dakota Forsyth, and Jack Anderson came in for relief, with Anderson being credited with an unearned run thanks to a Penn State error.
Penn State stays on the road and visits Columbia, South Carolina to take on South Carolina for a three-game series from February 26-28 before heading back to North Carolina for a three-game series against UNC-Wilmington from March 5-7.