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Penn State Baseball Loses Steam Late, Falls To Nebraska 8-2 In Game One Of Series

Penn State baseball (8-14) lost its grip late on the Nebraska Cornhuskers (16-6) Friday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Rob Cooper’s squad fell 8-2 to the Cornhuskers due to a late-inning rally.

Bailey Dees took the mound for the Nittany Lions following a rough outing last weekend against Purdue and rebounded in a big way.

Dees dueled with Nebraska starter Cade Povich for six innings, and the two teams were neck-and-neck until the moment he was pulled. In the ensuing innings, Nebraska’s offense caught fire and Penn State lost its mojo en route to the defeat.

How It Happened

Dees began the game strong, although a hit by pitch, some heads-up base running and situational baseball exhibited by the Cornhuskers had them threatening the Nittany Lions early.

However, thanks to some stellar defense and pristine pitching with runners on base, the Nittany Lions were able to mitigate the damage. But the Cornhuskers were still the first on the scoreboard by way of a Brice Matthews single to center in the top of the second.

The Cornhuskers led 1-0 heading into the bottom of the second inning, that of which Penn State’s Matt Wood led off with a double. Although the Nittany Lions went down one, two, three after that, leaving him stranded.

Justin Hallmark led off the top of the third with a triple, although the Cornhuskers would leave him stranded as well.  Penn State escaped unscathed once again, but the Nittany Lions weren’t able to capitalize in the bottom half of the inning as a Tayven Kelley single to right was all of the offense that they’d get.

The fourth inning would find Nebraska stranding a Luke Roskam’s leadoff walk on second base, and the Nittany Lions proceeded to go down in order. Following a fifth inning of more futile offense, Nebraska sat at 1-10 with runners in scoring position. Penn State was 0-5, and 0-6 with runners on base. Both teams were hitting the ball hard and putting it in play, but weren’t able to capitalize on golden opportunities and produce any results.

That would finally change in the bottom half of the sixth after Johnny Piacentino punched a single into left, advanced to second on a wild pitch shortly after, and crossed home plate via a single off the bat of Justin Williams down the left field line.

One batter later, after Williams advanced on a wild pitch, Wood sliced a single down the right field line, scoring Williams to give Penn State its first lead of the game at 2-1. The Nittany Lions matched their hit total in the game with four in the inning.

Dees’ day would conclude in the top of the seventh, as Jared Freilich took over in relief. Dees had an excellent outing, giving up one run on six hits, walking only one batter, hitting a couple, and fanning four.

Freilich wasn’t able finish the job for Dees, however, as he plunked the leadoff batter and things would only get worse from there. Freilich didn’t record a single out and walked the next three Cornhuskers, allowing Nebraska to tie the game 2-2 before he was yanked for Mason Mellott.

Mellott, on the other hand, had his way with Nebraska’s lineup, striking out the heart of the Cornhuskers’ order in dominant fashion.

A couple of singles off the bats of Gavin Homer and Parker Hendershot in the top of the seventh inning had it looking like Penn State might take the lead again, but with two outs, Kelley struck out to ultimately end the inning.

It ended up being Nebraska that would take the next lead in the top of the eighth, and it was a sizable one that would stick.

The huge inning from the Cornhuskers was kickstarted by a duet of miscues committed by the Nittany Lions the infield. Mellott was then pulled for Steven Miller who surrendered a walk, a base hit, and three runs (only one earned). Braden Halladay would take a stab at the Cornhuskers next, initially struggling with his command and allowing Nebraska to plate one more, but eventually getting the Nittany Lions out of the inning.

Nebraska tallied a total of five runs in the inning to increase its lead to 7-2 over Penn State heading into the bottom of the eighth.

The Nittany Lions went three-up, three-down and took the field on defense for the top of the ninth. Nebraska was able to add to its cushion in the final frame of action after Joe Acker reached on a fielder’s choice and would make his way around the bases, courtesy of two more throwing errors by the Nittany Lions.

The Cornhuskers led 8-2 leading into the bottom of the ninth, where the Nittany Lions would falter completely, going down one, two, three.

Takeaways

  • The Nittany Lions have heart, and it was on full display today. Entering this matchup, the Nittany Lions had no business sticking with Nebraska, the top dog in the Big Ten, but went toe-to-toe with the Cornhuskers through seven innings.
  • However, with all of that said, Penn State still evidently struggles to put full games together. On multiple occasions this season, it’s seemed as if Rob Cooper’s squad runs out of gas just a little bit too soon. The defense played a squeaky clean, near flawless game until the eighth inning where it committed two total errors and a handful of miscues. And following Bailey Dees’ tone-setting start, with the exception of Mason Mellott, the Nittany Lions’ bullpen was unable to provide him any help.
  • Speaking of Dees, the junior was dominant. Against a Big Ten powerhouse in Nebraska, he showed up and pitched one of, if not his best game all season. Dees was ultra-competitive, going after batters and not backing down from the Cornhuskers’ stacked lineup all game long. This will certainly be something for Penn State’s deemed ace to build off of moving forward.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will have the night to regroup, until tomorrow where they’ll be back at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to face off with Nebraska for game two at 1 p.m.

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About the Author

Zach Donaldson

Zach is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He is currently an Onward State contrib. and also serves as an editor for Penn State’s CommRadio. He’s hails from Downingtown, Pa. or in other words just outside of Philly. When he's not watching or ranting about Philly sports, you can probably find him at the gym. If you like sports tweets, follow him on Twitter @zachdonaldson_ and all inquires go to [email protected]

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