Baseball Wins 300th Big Ten Game, Goes 1-2 At Illinois
Penn State baseball (10-12) opened Big Ten play on the road with an immediate test against one of the conference’s elite programs in 2015 regular season champion Illinois. The Nittany Lions struggled to put runs on the board during the first two games of the series, but erupted for an electric four-run ninth inning in game three to pull the 5-3 upset for the program’s 300th Big Ten win.
The Nittany Lions couldn’t get the bats going Friday evening in Champaign, dropping the conference opener 5-0. Sophomore starting pitcher Cody Sedlock breezed through the Penn State lineup, allowing only four hits in seven innings of work, while adding 10 strikeouts.
Penn State freshman outfielder Jordan Bowersox paced the Nittany Lions’ offense at Illinois Field, going 2-for-3 from the plate with a double and a single in the second and fifth innings, respectively. Towering 6-foot-8 sophomore southpaw Taylor Lehman provided four innings on the mound, giving up four quick runs in the first on his way to a short five-run outing.
Player of the Game
Jordan Bowersox | Center fielder | Freshman
The Winter Springs, Fla., native was the lone bright spot in an otherwise meager offensive output for the Nittany Lions. Bowersox is one of several true freshmen who have stepped up into more involved roles as the schedule turns to Big Ten play.
Starting pitcher Doug Hayes went the distance in a nearly flawless outing to give the Illini an easy 6-1 victory in the first game of the doubleheader. Hayes, who surprisingly only recorded three strikeouts, worked the plate to perfection, allowing only one hit on the afternoon — a leadoff triple by third baseman Jim Haley to start the fourth inning.
Despite hanging with Illinois through the first three innings, starter Sal Biasi and the Nittany Lions surrendered a pair of homers in the following inning — a Jason Goldstein leadoff shot and a three-run dagger by Anthony Drago.
Player of the Game
Doug Hayes | Starting pitcher | Redshirt sophomore
The Wheaton, Ill., product was tremendous in his nine innings of work, allowing only lone walk while stumping Cooper’s squad with a business-like approach on the mound.
Penn State and Illinois battled to a 1-1 tie heading into the ninth, but the Nittany Lions’ timing for stringing together their first furious rally of the series couldn’t have been better. The 300th Big Ten win in program history — an encouraging 5-3 breakthrough — was earned in brilliant fashion down the stretch.
Left fielder James Coates was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give Penn State a 2-1 lead before true freshman Willie Burger came up huge the very next at-bat with a pinch-hit double to ignite the Nittany Lions’ rally. Classmate Justin Hagenman is pitching beyond his years, as the Voorhees, N.J., native improved to 4-1 on the season thanks to a commanding 8 1/3 inning effort.
Player of the Game
Willie Burger | Pinch hitter | True freshman
Burger sealed the win on the biggest hit of his young career. The Lancaster, Pa., native looks more and more comfortable with each game, but his cool-blooded composure when it mattered most was a major takeaway.
Penn State returns to Medlar Field on Tuesday for a 6:30 p.m. ET showdown with Youngstown State in a one-game series.
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