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Penn State Baseball Explodes For 14 In Ninth, Demolishes Pitt 19-6 At PNC Park

Penn State baseball (25-24, 11-10 Big Ten) outlasted Pitt (27-23, 13-13 ACC) 19-6 in a non-conference interstate rivalry matchup Tuesday night at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Following a slow offensive stretch to start the contest, Penn State exploded for four runs in the seventh and eighth innings, spearheaded by an RBI single from clean-up hitter Derek Cease. However, the Panthers fought back with a four-hit, five-run inning of their own to take a 6-5 lead entering the ninth.

Remarkably, Penn State answered the adversity with two three-run home run blasts courtesy of Josh Spiegel and Kyle Hannon to take an immediate 11-6 lead in the final frame. The offensive fireworks didn’t stop there, as the Nittany Lions totaled seven hits and 14 runs during the span, contributing to a convincing 19-6 victory.

How It Happened

Right-hander Tommy Molsky took the hill for the Nittany Lions to begin the bout, while freshman Jonathan Bautista dealt first for Pitt.

At the plate, Penn State began the game with two hits, courtesy of Cole Bartels and Matt Wood. Bartels notched a single down the left-field line, and Wood, a Pittsburgh native, followed up the effort with a single of his own directed towards first. The hit advanced Bartels to third base, but a ground-out by Johnny Piacentino ended an otherwise promising top frame for Rob Cooper’s squad.

After an initial strikeout tossed by Molsky, a dropped pop-up to left field by the Nittany Lions advanced Pitt catcher Tatem Levins to second base, giving the Panthers their first base runner of the contest. From there, Molsky walked Sky Duff and Ron Washington Jr. to load the bags with just one out.

Penn State escaped a nearly dire situation by converting two straight outs, including a strikeout and a ground-out hit towards third to end the inning.

The Nittany Lions produced a quick, one-two-three inning to kickstart the second, but again showed their ability to escape undamaged defensively. Following a double to right field by Pitt infielder Brock Franks, Jeffrey Wehler took first base after being hit by a Molsky fastball. Fortunately for Cooper and company, Penn State was able to pick up the sole out it needed to get out of the inning, with the score remaining knotted up at 0-0.

Although the hitting struggles continued for Penn State through the third frame, the defense held up its side of the bargain by escaping yet another inning with loaded bases. Three innings in, the Panthers left an astounding eight runners on base, contributing to the early 0-0 stalemate.

Wood kicked off the fourth with a rip down the left-field line, resulting in a double and a 2-for-2 start for the Big Ten’s leading hitter. After advancing to third on a balk, the Pittsburgh product scored on the next at-bat on an unearned run stemming from a wild pitch, where Wood was deemed safe at home upon making contact with Pitt’s pitcher, Bautista. Wood’s hit proved to be Penn State’s only offense in the fourth frame, despite catapulting the Nittany Lions to a 1-0 edge.

The two squads both nabbed a scoreless fifth frame, partially due to strong bullpen pitching from Jordan Morales, who took to the mound in relief of Molsky. After surrendering just one hit under Morales’ stronghold, Cooper sent Steven Miller to pitch midway through the sixth inning. Miller struggled by surrendering two hits and advancing CJ Funk on a wild pitch, who ultimately scored on an RBI by Wehler. The lone Pitt run tied the matchup up at 1-1 entering the seventh inning.

Kyle Hannon proved to be the sparkplug for Penn State in the seventh inning by stealing two bases after being walked by reliever Dylan Lester. Facing two outs, Derek Cease drove in Hannon with a crucial RBI single to give the Nittany Lions a 2-1 lead.

Penn State continued to pile onto Cease’s momentum-swinging RBI with three additional runs in the eighth inning. Beginning with a walk on Wood’s fourth at-bat, Billy Gerlott nailed a double, which brought Wood in for the second time in the first three runs. Josh Spiegel and Gerlott also scored, thanks to RBI hits by Hannon and Cease, expanding the Penn State lead to a 5-1 margin.

Pitt entered the bottom of the eighth inning with just four total hits all game, but the Panthers were able to more than double that mark by producing an explosive five-hit, five-run inning to overtake the lead. Under the watch of Penn State reliever Kellan Tulio, Pitt picked up three hits and three walks, all without grabbing an out in the process.

Carson Kohls quickly took to the mound at the expense of Tulio and turned the tide in a big way for the Nittany Lions. In the next four at-bats, Kohls helped garner all three outs, including a strikeout on Jack Anderson. Despite a solid mitigation effort from Kohls, Penn State entered the ninth trailing at a 6-5 mark.

Improbably, the Nittany Lions one-uped Pitt’s display of offensive firepower by producing two-three run homers from Josh Spiegel and Kyle Hannon, respectively, to capture an 11-5 lead at the top of the ninth. Following consecutive walks of Jay Harry and Matt Wood, Spiegel smacked a three-run shot well over the 399-foot centerfield wall at PNC Park to give Penn State an 8-6 edge.

After two more hits, resulting in singles from Johnny Piacentino and Gerlott, Hannon did Spiegel one better by hitting the squad’s second home of the evening into the Pirates-labeled greenery in center field. The blast catapulted the Nittany Lions to an 11-6 lead, but the offensive action continued with another three hits and seven runs for Penn State.

The last hit of the inning came from Tayven Kelley, resulting in a three-RBI triple hit towards right field. With his latest rip, Kelley now owns the Penn State single-season record for the most triples in a single campaign with 18.

The fielding effort in the bottom of the ninth put a bow on the Nittany Lions’ offensive outburst, by converting three outs on only one hit. In the end, Penn State’s 14-run display in the final hitting frame carried the visitors to a commanding 19-6 victory.

Takeaways

  • Matt Wood looked to be right at home in an MLB ballpark, folks. With a solid 2-for-3 day at the plate, the Pittsburgh native helped overcome the Nittany Lions’ slow start offensively by willing in an unearned run in the fourth inning. Entering the day, Wood shared the Big Ten hitting crown with Nick Cimillo of Rutgers, who also boasted a .402 average. However, after his latest showing at PNC Park, Wood now has sole possession of the distinction and is currently batting at a .409 clip.
  • The Nittany Lions bent in the field, but ultimately, the defense held strong. In consecutive innings, shaky pitching contributed to Pitt loading the bases in the second and third frames. The Panthers failed to produce a run in both instances thanks to the late-count navigation from starter Tommy Molsky. Pitt left 15 runners on base at the game’s conclusion in comparison to nine from Penn State.
  • With their backs against the wall trailing 6-5 entering the ninth inning, Josh Spiegel and Kyle Hannon took the meaning of hero ball to a new level for the Nittany Lions. After two-consecutive walks on Jay Harry and Matt Wood, Spiegel pumped a three-run homer straight over the centerfield wall to snag an 8-6 lead. Then, two at-bats later, Hannon improbably nailed another three-run shot, extending the advantage to an 11-6 clip. The production didn’t stop there, as Penn State tacked on seven-additional runs for an unheard-of seven-hit, 14-run inning to put a defining stamp on the game.

What’s Next?

Penn State will return to Happy Valley for the first time in 10 days to start a three-game series against Ohio State on Thursday, May 19. The first pitch is set for 5 p.m., with the matchup set to air live on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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