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Penn State Baseball Wins One In Three-Game Set Against Ohio State

Penn State baseball (9-18) managed to win just one game over Ohio State (15-13) in its three-game weekend series in Columbus.

The Nittany Lions dropped the first two games of the series by a wide margin, as Rob Cooper’s squad was outscored by 12 total runs in the first two games.

However, Penn State was able to salvage the series with a much-needed win in the series finale Sunday afternoon to snap a six-game losing streak.

Game One

In the first game of the three-game series, Penn State had some exciting positives but also some glaring negatives, ultimately falling to the Buckeyes 11-6. Ohio State scored 11 runs on 12 hits, as well as at least one run in all but two innings.

Bailey Dees took the mound for Penn State facing off against Garrett Burhenn for the Buckeyes. Both pitchers had mediocre outings, with neither particularly putting their prints on the game. 

Dees went four innings and allowed eight hits and five runs while striking out five batters. Burhenn tossed seven innings and allowed six runs on seven hits and struck out seven.

The ball was flying out of the park for both teams from the get-go, as the two squads notched five home runs in the game.

Ohio State smacked three dingers in each of the first three innings, initiated by Zach Dezenzo in the first, followed by Sam Wilson in the second, and finally Kade Kern in the third. Penn State would get in on the long-ball action in the third, as team-leader Johnny Piacentino belted his sixth of the season to straightaway center for a grand slam, placing the Nittany Lions on top 4-3 entering the fourth.

The Buckeyes would go on to tie the game in the fourth, but not for long courtesy of Matt Wood, as he would hit the game’s fifth home run to put the Nittany Lions up 5-4. 

However, that’d be the last time the Nittany Lions would lead, as the Buckeyes were able to methodically manufacture runs, and some late errors and walks, which have plagued Penn State all season, put the nail in the coffin.

Game Two

Penn State’s struggles continued in the second game of the series, however, this time it was much more apparent on the scoreboard. Penn State posted a zero in the score column and only registered three hits, losing to Ohio State by a final score of 7-0.

The Buckeyes didn’t waste time getting the scoring started, as Mitchell Okuley led the game off with a walk, and Zach Dezenzo would move him to third with a single to right. Kade Kern would record the game’s first RBI with no outs, knocking home Okuley with a single of his own. Dezenzo would then score on a sac-fly, and Kern would cross home plate on a wild pitch putting the Buckeyes up 3-0 after the first frame of action.

Penn State starter Conor Larkin appeared to be rattled early on, but proceeded to settle in and gain control, retiring the next 10 Buckeyes he faced after the three-run first. Larkin finished allowing only four runs on four hits, with seven strikeouts and only one walk.

Seth Lonsway dominated from the outset and secured the shutout victory when it was all said and done. Lonsway fanned six and surrendered only three hits through seven innings of action.

After plating the fourth run off Larkin in the bottom of the fifth, Jared Freilich would take the hill and the Buckeyes’ offense would build its cushion even more with two runs in the sixth via a double to right center off the bat of Brent Todys and a ground-rule double off the bat of Marcus Ernst to bring the score to 6-0.

The closest Penn State would come to scoring a run was a ground-rule double off the bat of Josh Speigel, but a groundout and flyout would ultimately end the inning.

Ohio State would add another run in the bottom of the eighth by virtue of a bases-loaded walk to bring its run total to seven.

Game Three

Penn State managed to put together a complete team effort to steal the third game of the series 10-6 from Ohio State to avoid the sweep.

Both team’s starting pitchers were cruising early, matching each other blow-for-blow and recording strikeout after strikeout. Kyle Virbitsky for the Nittany Lions and Jack Neely for the Buckeyes both dominated with strikes, keeping the bats quiet for the first two innings.

Entering the third inning, Neely had sent down seven of the first nine batters he’d faced, but served up a pair of fastballs for Curtis Robison and Gavin Homer to turn into doubles that fell just short of the wall. However they were enough to open up the scoring, as Homer knocked in Robison to put the Nittany Lions up 1-0.

Penn State’s next batter, Tayven Kelley, made sure to get all of it for a two-run home run, the first of his career, to put Penn State up 3-0.

Heading into the fourth, Virbitsky had struck out six of the first ten batters he had faced, but tides turned quickly for him as well. He noticeably just lost a bit of control in this half inning of action, yielding a two-run home run to Conner Pohl and then a three-run shot to Nate Karaffa later in the inning. The Buckeyes took a 5-0 lead entering the fifth.

Neely had nine strikeouts going into the fifth inning and had retired all but three batters. He wouldn’t let up again and would finish the day giving up three runs on four hits and striking out 10 in just under five innings.

It was the Buckeyes’ bullpen that struggled to put the Nittany Lions away. Penn State had its way with Patrick Murphy, scoring three runs off of the left-hander thanks to a Matt Wood single and a Josh Speigel RBI double. Then, a Robison single and Parker Hendershot two-run double put Penn State in the lead 6-5.

Ohio State would knot things at six in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to a Brent Todys’ bomb over the right-center field wall, but Penn State answered in the top of the seventh thanks to a pair of base hits from Wood and Homer, then a two-run double from Justin Williams. The Nittany Lions took the lead 8-6 and wouldn’t look back.

Penn State would tack on two more runs in the top of the ninth for good measure, bringing its total to seven runs racked up against the Ohio State bullpen on the day and entire sum to 10.

Mason Mellott was outstanding for the Nittany Lions in relief, not allowing the Buckeyes to threaten late and securing the victory for Penn State.

Takeaways

  • The Nittany Lions still have work to do to become a threat in the Big Ten. Sitting at 9-18, second-to-last in the conference, Rob Cooper’s squad continues to come up short in different capacities not allowing them to string together a quality set of wins and build any sort of momentum to make noise in the conference. Entering game three of the series, Penn State had lost six straight.
  • Penn State doesn’t like to go down without a fight. After shooting itself in the foot in game one and coming out flat in game two, the Nittany Lions looked like a completely different team in game three of the series and were able to put together an excellent team effort to avoid the sweep.
  • Penn State’s freshmen continue to show promise at the plate. In game two, Johnny Piacentino hit a grand slam for his team-leading sixth home run and 17th RBI on the year in game two. Matt Wood also hit a solo shot and tallied three hits in the series. Tayven Kelley contributed by hitting the first home run of his collegiate career in game three.

What’s Next

Penn State will take its momentum back home to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to square off against the Michigan State Spartans for the second time this year. First pitch of the three-game series is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, April 30.

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About the Author

Zach Donaldson

Zach is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He is a writer for Onward State and serves as an editor for Penn State’s CommRadio. He 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 inquiries can go to [email protected].

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