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Penn State Baseball Splits With Northwestern In Four-Game Opening Series

Penn State baseball (2-2) won two games over Northwestern (2-2) in its opening series of the 2021 season at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota.

After taking game one on Friday, the Nittany Lions were swept in Saturday’s doubleheader. However, Rob Cooper’s squad was able to bounce back in Sunday’s game thanks to three home runs by center fielder Johnny Piacentino.

Game One

The Nittany Lions kicked off their season with a 6-3 victory over Northwestern Friday afternoon. A stellar pitching performance, backed by a productive offense, was the key to Penn State’s first win of the season.

Bailey Dees pitched five strong innings, allowing two runs and two hits, while striking out five batters. The first run given up was hardly his fault, as it came in the second inning when left fielder Tayven Kelly misplayed a ball that ended up being a run-scoring double. Tyler Shingledecker came out of the bullpen and pitched four dominant innings by giving up no earned runs and striking out nine batters en route to earning the save.

The star of the game was redshirt freshman Josh Spiegel. Serving as the designated hitter in this one, he smacked the first two home runs of his college career, both solo shots, and also ripped a double.

The first home run gave the Nittany Lions their first run of the season.

The second one gave the team the lead in the fourth inning, a lead that would be kept for the remainder of the game.

Parker Hendershot came off the bench as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and added an insurance run with a home run right down the left-field line to give Penn State a 6-3 lead.

Johnny Piacentino and Matt Wood each tallied one RBI in the game, too.

Game Two

Penn State wasn’t able to get anything going at the plate during this seven-inning game, as it was shut out 2-0. Northwestern scored both of its runs in the second inning, and that was enough for the Wildcats to take the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Conor Larkin got the start for the Nittany Lions and pitched four innings, giving up two runs and striking out eight. Mason Mellott entered the game out of the bullpen following Larkin’s departure, and he pitched three shutout innings while allowing just one hit.

Tyler Uberstine and Coby Moe combined to throw a six-hit shutout for the Wildcats, with Uberstine earning the win and Moe getting the save.

At the plate, Gavin Homer and Matt Wood each collected two hits for Penn State. For Northwestern, Evan Minarovic and Vincent Bianchina drove in a run a piece on a double and a single, respectively.

Game Three

Despite being in control for much of this game, the Nittany Lion lost the lead in the seventh inning, ultimately losing the nine-inning contest 5-2. Freshman Jaden Henline made the first start of his college career and was able to put his team in a position to win before it all crumbled down in the seventh inning.

The bats got off to a hot start, as the team scored both of its two runs in the bottom of the first inning. One of those runs came on a Josh Spiegel RBI double that went over David Dunn’s head in center field.

Henline pitched four innings and gave up just one run while striking out six batters. He came out firing in the first inning with three strikeouts to help him get out of a jam.

Hutch Gagnon and Ralph Gambino followed Henline’s performance with a scoreless inning each. It got ugly after that, folks.

Jared Freilich came on and gave up four runs (three earned) and five hits after coming in to pitch in the seventh inning. However, it doesn’t solely fall on Freilich’s shoulders due to some poor defense played behind up, including a ball hit to right field that was misplayed by Curtis Robison that scored a run.

The Nittany Lions put plenty of runners on base in the final three innings, but they were unable to capitalize, losing the game 5-2.

Game Four

If you like offense, this was the game for you.

This game was a back and forth affair, with both teams just refusing to go down easily until Penn State pulled away late to win 13-10.

Both starting pitchers struggled mightily, as Northwestern starter Jack Dyke didn’t even record an out before being taken out of the game in the first inning after surrendering three runs. Kyle Virbitsky was on the mound for Penn State, and he gave up seven runs in 3.1 innings.

The player of game was easily Johnny Piacentino. The center fielder smashed three home runs, the first being a two-run bomb in the first inning.

His third home run tied up the game in the sixth inning and shifted the momentum back to the Nittany Lions.

Piacentino finished the day with four RBIs and a walk in addition to the three homers.

Catcher Matt Wood and designated hitter Josh Spiegel also went deep in this one. Spiegel lined one over the left-field wall for his third homer of the series.

Wood tied the game up in the fourth inning with a bomb to right field that was his first of the season.

Steven Miller came on in the ninth and closed out the win for the Nittany Lions, earning his first save of the season.

Takeaways

  • The Nittany Lions have some SERIOUS power, folks. The squad hit a whopping eight home runs in the four-game set, including three each from Johnny Piacentino and Josh Spiegel. Parker Hendershot and Matt Wood each had a homer of their own, too.
  • Head coach Rob Cooper relied on a lot of new faces to fill important roles this weekend. Spiegel, who transferred to the program this past offseason, of course made an immediate impact with his three home runs. Freshmen Jaden Henline, Kyle Hannon, Chad Rogers, Jay Harry, and Carson Kohls were all thrown into significant roles as well.
  • Penn State struggled in the field for much of the series. While the team only committed three errors, there were several misplays in the field that hurt the team. It could just be some rust, but moving forward, the team needs to sharpen things up.

What’s Next

Penn State will travel to Bloomington next weekend to take on Indiana in a four-game series. The first game is set to start at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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