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Inconsistent Play Costs Penn State Baseball In Series Loss To Maryland

Penn State baseball played its first game at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for the first time in 672 days Saturday afternoon. That game was the start of an inconsistent series that saw the Nittany Lions lose two out of three games.

Bailey Dees got the start for Penn State Saturday afternoon, and it was an outing he’d certainly like to forget. Dees pitched 4.1 innings and gave up nine runs (seven earned), eight hits, and two walks. The right-hander’s rough outing was followed up by 10 earned runs given up by the bullpen.

Penn State’s offense did its job by scoring 10 runs in the game. However, coach Rob Cooper was quick to bring up the 17 total offensive strikeouts that contributed to what he thought was an up-and-down day offensively.

The Nittany Lions turned it around in the second game of the series, as they played a much cleaner and complete brand of baseball that led to a 6-5 victory. Conor Larkin got the start for Penn State and pitched 6.2 strong innings while allowing just two earned runs and striking out eight. Cooper had high praise for Larkin after Sunday’s game, as the 6’1″ right-hander helped righten the ship with his performance and energy.

“Conor Larkin is one of the best kids I’ve ever coached,” Cooper said. “Besides being really good, he is an unbelievable teammate, he’s mentored so many young guys since he’s been here, he cares deeply about his teammates and this program.”

Larkin’s outing put Penn State in a position to snap its five-game losing streak. However, in the top of the ninth inning, Maryland rallied against left-handed relief pitcher Tyler Shingledecker and tied the game 5-5.

Luckily for the Nittany Lions, some walk-off heroics were in the cards for the bottom of the ninth inning. After loading the bases with no outs, catcher Josh Spiegel ripped a ball into the gap to walk it off for Penn State. Spiegel had three hits and two RBIs on the day, and he’s certainly caught the attention of Cooper early on.

“He’s just a great kid, hard worker,” Cooper said. “He’s had to overcome a lot. Went to Oklahoma State, basically was told to leave, and that’s a hit for a guy and his confidence. He’s come here and competed, been a great teammate. Just really proud of him and lucky to coach him.”

Cooper’s squad struck out eight times in game two of the series, compared to the 17 times in game one. The head coach explained that it wasn’t a change in approach that limited the strikeouts, rather more trust in the current approach.

“What guys did was trusted their approach,” Cooper said. “When guys try to do too much, when they put undue pressure on themselves, when they overthink things, your motor skills deteriorate, your athleticism deteriorates, your recognition skills, ball-strike, all that kind of stuff, hand-eye deteriorate. Today, our guys just played. They are good players and instead of trying to do too much, they were just like, ‘Let’s go, I’m gonna trust myself.'”

Coming in hot off its game two win, Penn State wasn’t able to pick up where it left off and lost 7-1. The Nittany Lion offense was completely shut down by Terps pitcher Jason Savacool, who pitched a complete game and allowed no earned runs and just five hits.

“I felt like the first four innings we did some good stuff,” Cooper said. “Their guy pitched really really well, kept us off balance. We didn’t really do enough to really adjust to what he was trying to do. Couldn’t put anything together offensively.

“We have to make the adjustments necessary to try to combat what he was trying to do us, and we didn’t do that,” Cooper continued.

The offense blew a tremendous opportunity in the bottom of the fourth inning. The squad loaded the bases with no outs, and the previous game’s walk-off hero, Spiegel, stepped to the plate. Spiegel grounded into a double play, and one run scored on the play. That was the lone run Penn State scored that inning, which was a huge win for Maryland.

“[Spiegel] put a good swing on the ball today,” Cooper said after Monday’s game. “If he just stays inside of it a little bit longer, and you know, it’s easy to say and hard to do sometimes. We had our opportunities and we just didn’t do enough.”

Kyle Virbitsky started the game for Penn State and worked in and out of trouble throughout his 4.1 innings. He gave up three runs (two earned), six hits, and struck out seven. Cooper thought Virbitsky “did a decent job” and put in a “solid start.”

It appeared Penn State had gained some momentum when right-hander Jared Freilich came into the game in the fifth inning and escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam without giving up a run. However, it went downhill from there, with the Terps outscoring the Nittany Lions 4-0 the rest of the way.

Penn State will attempt to play a more consistent series when it kicks off a three-game set against Michigan next weekend at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

After a four-year career with Onward State, Gabe is now a college graduate and off to the real world. He shockingly served as the blog’s managing editor during the 2022-23 school year and covered football for much of his Onward State tenure, including trips to the Outback Bowl and Rose Bowl. For any professional inquiries, please email Gabe at [email protected]. You can still see his bad sports takes on Twitter at @gabeangieri.

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