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Penn State Baseball Splits Doubleheader With Rutgers In Big Ten Opener

Penn State baseball (7-12) faced Rutgers (15-5) in a doubleheader at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Friday for the Big Ten home opener.

The Scarlet Knights took game one, despite trailing 4-1 at one point. Both teams looked good both offensively and defensively.

Game two was a rollercoaster, with both teams exchanging leads throughout the game, but Penn State escaped with an 8-6 victory.

How It Happened

Game One

Sophomore right-hander Travis Luensmann faced senior right-hander Jared Kollar in game one for Rutgers. Matt Wood also returned to the lineup after a hiatus while Kyle Hannon was still absent.

Rutgers opened the scoring in the first inning with a sacrifice fly out to the warning track that scored a runner. Penn State responded immediately, though. Right fielder Billy Gerlott hit a line drive that looked like it was gone, but it bounced off the wall for a leadoff triple. Center fielder Johnny Piacentino then hit a ground ball bouncing up the middle, which sent Gerlott home to tie the game 1-1.

Fast-forward to the bottom of the third inning, and the Nittany Lions threatened with runners on first and third base. Catcher Matt Wood, who is hitting .345 this season, hit a sacrifice fly to send second baseman Dylan Cease home to take a 2-1 lead. But then, designated hitter Josh Spiegel hit a line drive deep to center field, soaring over the Rutgers outfielders and went out for a two-run homer to make it 4-1 Penn State.

After putting two runners on base, manager Rob Cooper swapped Luensmann for senior Tyler Shingledecker in the fourth inning. Luensmann posted a 2.70 ERA with two strikeouts and three hits. Rutgers scored a runner off a ground ball then loaded the bases, making the score 4-2. However, Shingledecker got the Nittany Lions out of the inning.

The next inning, though, Penn State wasn’t so lucky. Rutgers designated hitter Evan Sleight hit a bomb to right field and into the bleachers to make it 4-3. Rutgers poured it on, with a two-run RBI double for infielder Tony Santa Maria to take a 5-4 lead.

Rutgers scored another run on a sacrifice grounder to shortstop that made it 6-4 in the seventh inning. The Scarlet Knights frequently put runners in scoring position, making life difficult for Penn State’s pitchers.

Penn State was unable to score again in game one despite putting runners in scoring position, and Rutgers won 6-4.

Game Two

Some minor tweaks were made to the lineup, including Wood and Spiegel swapping positions they played in game one.

Round two of the series began with Rutgers placing runners on first and third. The Scarlet Knights’ hits were landing far from where Penn State could get them, which resulted in an early 1-0 Rutgers lead in the first inning. Rutgers catcher Nick Cimillo hit a two-run RBI double off the wall, which sent runners scrambling around the bases to give his team a 3-0 lead. Rutgers continued pouring it on, with another RBI single up the middle to end the top of the first inning 4-0.

Then, shortstop Jay Harry hit a bomb into the right field bleachers to make it 4-1 in the bottom of the first inning. It was Penn State’s only run of the inning.

One inning later, Wood hit a ball into the right field corner and fair for an RBI triple in the bottom of the third inning to cut the lead to half. The damage wasn’t finished yet, as Spiegel hit another RBI triple to make it 4-3.

Both teams exchanged blows, with Rutgers getting another insurance run off a single to make it 5-3 in the fourth inning.

In the fifth inning, Penn State exchanged another blow. Harry continued his impressive day and hit a two-run rocket into the bleachers once again to tie the game 5-5. It’s safe to say that it’s his favorite spot.

Penn State made another costly mistake in the sixth inning, when pitcher Steven Miller threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score, giving Rutgers a 6-5 lead. Such mistakes have been a recurrence for Penn State this season. However, it got a run back later in the inning when Piacentino hit a deep sacrifice fly to tie the game yet again. Just like that, Penn State was back in business with another lead with another sacrifice fly from Wood. Both offenses fired on all cylinders throughout the game.

Penn State fully controlled the momentum the rest of the game. In the eighth inning, Penn State scored on a sacrifice fly, making the score 8-6.

The Nittany Lions brought left-hander Kellan Tulio into the game in hopes of closing it out in the ninth inning. Tulio was successful in a one-two-three inning, securing an 8-6 Penn State victory to split the doubleheader.

Takeaways

  • Jay Harry went off today. Penn State’s shortstop hit two homers, one of which was a solo shot, while the other was a two-run homer.
  • Penn State’s offense was more prevalent on both teams. A combined 24 runs were scored in both games.
  • Pitching was also very prevalent, too. Both teams combined for 30 strikeouts over both games.

What’s Next

Penn State will go head-to-head with Rutgers again on Saturday, March 25 with first pitch at 1 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for the third and final game of the series.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a freshman majoring in journalism. From the Maryland side of the D.C. suburbs, Nolan likes using Old Bay and is a diehard Washington sports fan, which can be both difficult and rewarding. If you want to debate anything about sports with him, follow him on Instagram @_nolanwick or on Twitter @nolan_wick.

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