Baseball Takes Two Of Three Over Niagara In First Home Series
After 14 games and 119 innings on the road, Penn State baseball was finally back in Happy Valley for its first home series of the season against the Niagara Purple Eagles this weekend. The Nittany Lions dropped the first game 4-3, but took both games in the Saturday double-header 4-1 and 16-4.
How It Happened
Penn State was on pace to win its third consecutive home opener, but a four-run sixth inning ruined the fun at Medlar Field as the Nittany Lions fell 4-3.
Penn State showcased three pitchers on Friday evening and gave Taylor Lehman the start on the mound. Lehman looked dominant in his 2016 home debut where he fanned four batters and allowed only five hits until the sixth inning. Lehman fell apart in the sixth as the Purple Eagles scored four runs on three hits as the starter also tossed a pair of wild pitches.
The offense showed up early but couldn’t capitalize late as Niagara’s sixth inning runs came up unanswered to hand Penn State its first home loss of the season. Freshman Conlin Hughes had a great day going 4-for-5 with a run scored to help build the early lead. Niagara’s two errors in the game appeared to be costly as all three Penn State runs were unanswered.
The second game of the series was almost as close as the first, but this time came in Penn State’s favor in a 4-1 victory over Niagara.
Eli Nabholz got his second start of the season and had an early exit thanks to his high pitch count. Nabholz left the game after only two innings, but threw 65 pitches while allowing one run. Sal Biasi entered in relief and struck out five batters in as many innings to set up Jack Anderson to close the game. Biasi received his second win of the year and Anderson got his fourth save.
Greg Guers wasn’t in Saturday’s lineup after taking a hard fall in Friday’s home opener, so Penn State had to make due without its most powerful hitter. The Nittany Lions scored four runs on eight hits and dominated the base paths thanks to seven walks by Niagara’s starting pitcher. Jim Haley had the best day in the batter’s box hitting 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, and kept his average above .300.
Niagara had no chance in the final game of Saturday’s double-header. Penn State scored six runs in the first inning without a single hit in the first inning en route to a dominant 16-4 victory to take the first home series of 2016.
Justin Hagenman was on the mound and continued to dominate the start of his freshman campaign. Hagenman gave Penn State six innings of work with five strikeouts and allowed four unearned runs without walking a batter. Hagenman got to work with an early six run lead which gave Penn State’s pitching staff some room to work. Niagara couldn’t come back as Penn State was stellar on the mound giving Hagenman his team-high third win of the season.
The Nittany Lions scored a season-high 16 runs in a dominating performance against the Purple Eagles. Penn State had 14 hits and got a great game out of freshman Willie Burger who went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and got on base six times to score four runs. Penn State had four innings with multiple runs scored and Niagara simply couldn’t catch up as the Lions took their first home series of 2016.
Player Of The Series
Willie Burger | Freshman | First Baseman
Willie Burger was terrific in his first carer series in Happy Valley. Burger completed the weekend going 7-for-11 with four runs and six RBIs and was a big part in the offense in both wins on Saturday. “I’m proud of [Willie],” coach Rob Cooper said. “He had some really good at-bats where he really had to kind of battle and grind, and he did a good job.”
The Nittany Lions are home for the next two games to take on West Virginia on Tuesday, March 22 at 6:30 p.m. and Rhode Island on March 23 at 6:30 p.m.