Penn State baseball (4-5) started its spring break road trip in California with a three-game series against UC Santa Barbara (4-7). The Nittany Lions dropped the first two games of the series, as their offense left something to be desired. The offense came alive in the final game of the series, however, and Penn State tallied eight runs on 11 hits to win the getaway game.
How It Happened
The first of Penn State’s three game stint in Santa Barbara got off to a promising start. After finding themselves down 1-0 in the first, the Nittany Lions got their bats going, scoring three runs over the next two innings. The offense was powered by catcher Ryan Sloniger’s two-run shot to right field in the second inning. Connor Klemann added an RBI single in the third to push the lead t0 3-1.
From then on, the Nittany Lions’ bats went quiet, as the Gauchos scored nine unanswered runs. Penn State’s defense didn’t help the cause, either, as a pair of fielding errors in the seventh contributed three unearned runs to UCSB’s 10-3 lead. Penn State’s Jordan Bowersox knocked an RBI single in the ninth, but it was too little, too late. The Nittany Lions fell 10-4 in game one.
The Nittany Lions’ bats were M.I.A. when they took the field for game two on Saturday. Ryan Sloniger’s single in the first inning was Penn State’s lone hit, as it amounted a grand total of six baserunners all game. Gauchos’ pitchers Noah Davis and Chris Clements combined to strikeout 14 Nittany Lions in a 4-0 shutout.
Penn State’s offense was clicking early in the final game of its visit to California. Sloniger extended his hit-streak to an impressive nine games with an RBI single in the first inning. Klemann provided some power in the top of the third, as his solo home run gave the Nittany Lions a 2-0 lead early.
UCSB scored one run on Jason Willow’s RBI single in the bottom of the fourth to make it 2-1 before Penn State’s offense poured it on in the next half inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Sloniger delivered a two-RBI single through the right side of the infield. Following a walk and a pitching change for the Gauchos, Parker Hendershot worked a 3-2 count and drove the payoff pitch to right field for another two-RBI single. Conlin Hughes made it 7-1 Nittany Lions before the middle of the fifth with a groundout to first that scored a run — ruled a sacrifice RBI for the junior middle infielder. UCSB added a run in the sixth, and Hughes responded with an RBI-triple in Penn State’s half of the seventh.
Leading 8-2, Penn State’s pitching faltered in the bottom of the seventh. Relievers Jake Pilewicz and Eric Mock allowed a sum of five earned runs, as the Gauchos narrowed the lead to 8-7. UCSB threatened with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eight, but true freshman reliever Mason Mellott induced a ground out to end the inning. Mellott posted a scoreless ninth inning as well to earn his second save on the season, as he helped Penn State survive a pair of late inning rallies for an 8-7 win.
Player Of The Series
Ryan Sloniger | Junior | Cather
The Punxsutawney native now has a hit in each of the first nine games of the season. He went 4-for-12 in Santa Barbara with five RBIs and put his slugging ability on display with a home run in game one.
The Nittany Lions’ spring break trip out west continues in Arizona, as they take on Grand Canyon University (3-8) in a three-game series March 8-10. It’ll conclude Penn State’s 12-game road trip, and the Nittany Lions will return to Medlar Field for their home opener against Mount St. Mary’s on March 14 at 5 p.m.