Penn State Baseball’s Historic Hitting Fuels Michigan State Sweep
Penn State baseball put up a whopping 39 runs in three wins over Michigan State this past weekend. The three-game sweep marked the first time that Penn State swept a Big Ten conference opponent since it took all three matchups in a series against Northwestern in April 2016.
Freshman Johnny Piacentino led the way by collecting eight hits in 14 at-bats along with six RBI on the weekend. Fellow freshman Jay Harry chipped in five hits and seven RBI himself in a dominant all-around series.
The series began on Friday night with a gritty offensive performance that set the tone for the rest of the series. Battling the wind on a chilly evening, the offense ground out a 7-6 victory in which it seemed like every time Michigan State scored any kind of a run, the Nittany Lions would get one right back. The game went right down to the wire, but reliever Mason Mellott won the battle in the ninth to shut the door on the Spartans. Coach Rob Cooper commented on the team’s resiliency and fight in the tough win.
“You don’t deserve to win games. You have to go out and earn them.” Cooper said, “We earned tonight’s win.”
On Saturday, however, it was a different approach that resulted in a victory. Penn State dominated from start to finish, even forcing Michigan State to utilize three pitchers to get out of the first inning of the lopsided win. Harry racked up six RBIs and three different Nittany Lions scored four runs in the contest. Piacentino collected five of Penn State’s 22 hits and was responsible for nine of the Nittany Lions’ 27 runs in a career afternoon.
In a normal season, youngsters, like Harry and Piacentino, for example, would have a full non-conference slate before facing Big Ten opponents to work out the kinks and make adjustments. This season, the squad did not have that luxury. Following the 27-run outburst, Cooper praised his younger players for making adjustments on the fly against conference opponents this season, which culminated in this tremendous series.
“The struggles that they have are struggles that they would have been able to go through last year, they’re doing it now in conference,” Cooper said. “They didn’t have mid-week games to work stuff out. They didn’t have February, March [non-conference] games to work stuff out so you’re starting to see them learn from it and make adjustments.”
Everything seemed to go right for the Nittany Lions, as the 27 runs were the most Penn State has ever scored against a Big-Ten opponent and the second-most in program history.
Gavin Homer led the charge for the dominant offense in Sunday’s contest, picking up three hits and scoring two runs in the 5-3 win. Michigan State’s starting pitcher Sam Benschoter was coming off of a 9.1-inning start against Maryland in which he struck out 17 Terrapin hitters. Penn State’s senior leadoff man provided the spark the Nittany Lions needed when facing such a daunting task, and Cooper had nothing but good things to say about his second baseman following the win.
“Gavin’s a guy that, the day he stepped on this campus, he cared,” Cooper said. “Any time you coach guys that really care about their teammates and want to win, you want to coach them, so he means the world to us.”
With Homer’s leadership and the team’s adjustments, Penn State put together a fantastic series that bodes well for the rest of this season and the program’s future.
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