Penn State Baseball Off To Best Start Since 1980 With Series Win Over UCF
Penn State baseball (9-3) capped off its spring break trip to Florida by winning two of three games against UCF (10-5). The Knights were one of the first four teams out of last year’s NCAA Tournament, so the road series win is a significant one for Rob Cooper’s team.
The 9-3 start is Penn State’s best since 1980 when the Nittany Lions opened with a 10-2 record.
How It Happened
Pitching carried the Nittany Lions through the first game of the series, as Dante Biasi and Mason Mellott combined to hold the Knights to just three hits. Biasi started the game for Penn State, striking out nine in six dominant innings of work before handing the game over to Mellott. Mellott only allowed two baserunners on a hit and a walk through three innings to earn his second save of the season.
On offense, Penn State’s bats feasted on UCF pitching with a season-high 13 hits in the game. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning thanks to four consecutive hits to start the inning. The hit parade started with back-to-back doubles from Mac Hippenhammer and Gavin Homer and ended with back-to-back RBI singles from Kris Kremer and Ryan Sloniger.
UCF got two runs back in the bottom of the third, but that was all the Knights could manage on the evening. The score remained 4-2 until Kremer drove in an insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Penn State went on to win the first game 5-2.
Right-handed pitcher Dees Bailey did not have the same success against UCF’s lineup in the second game of the series. In the bottom of the first inning, Bailey let up a two-run shot to Tyler Osik, which gave the Knights an early lead.
Conlin Hughes’ RBI-double halved the UCF lead in the top of the second, but UCF reclaimed its two-run lead in the bottom half of the second on an RBI-double of its own from Ray Alejo.
Gavin Homer pulled the Nittany Lions back within one in the top of the third, leading-off the inning with a double and coming around to score on a passed ball to make it 3-2 UCF.
UCF answered in the bottom of the fourth with some good two-out hitting that lead to Alejo’s RBI-triple, which bounced out of Jordan Bowersox’s glove in right field as he tried to make the play on the run.
In the top of the fifth, Homer helped get the Nittany Lions back within one run again with a one-out double before coming around to score on back-to-back singles from Bowersox and Parker Hendershot. A walk then loaded the bases for Penn State with one out, but the Knights got out of the jam with a double play to preserve their 4-3 lead.
UCF’s bullpen completely shut down Penn State’s offense in the final four innings. Righty Kyle Kemp struck out five Nittany Lions and only allowed two base runners on a walk and HBP in two innings. RHP Garrett Westberg closed out the game with three strikeouts in two perfect innings.
The Knights added one more in the bottom of the seventh on a solo home run from Alejo en route to a 5-3 victory over Penn State.
RHP Conor Larkin got the nod in the series finale for Penn State, and he delivered four solid innings, allowing only a pair of runs (one earned).
Still, the Nittany Lions found themselves trailing the Knights 3-2 with two outs in the seventh inning when Sloniger singled up the middle to start a huge two-out rally. Kremer singled and Mason Nadeau walked to load the bases.
Two runs scored, as Hughes got plunked and Hippenhammer drew another walk. This set the stage for Homer to break the game open with a monster grand slam on a full count to make it 8-3 Nittany Lions. Bowersox immediately followed with a solo shot of his own to improve the lead to 9-3.
Both teams added a pair of runs in the ninth inning, but Penn State’s huge seven-run seventh inning and a total of 13 hits on the afternoon powered it to a confidence-boosting win in Orlando. Mellott earned the win on Sunday, as he only allowed one run through 2.2 innings after taking over in the sixth inning.
- The bats were alive in Orlando, as the Nittany Lions combined for 33 hits in three games against UCF, posting 13 hits in two separate outings.
- Jordan Bowersox is on a tear right now. He lead the charge on offense, extending his hit streak to five games on Sunday. The Winter Springs, Florida native also went 3-for-5 twice against UCF in his home state.
- RHP Mason Mellott continues to dazzle in relief appearances this year. The sophomore now has three wins and two saves in six appearances, and he currently boasts a solid 1.29 ERA.
The Nittany Lions will return home to State College for class on Monday before traveling to Pittsburgh for one game against the Panthers on Tuesday, March 12 at 3 p.m.
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