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Penn State Baseball Drops Season Finale Against Illinois 7-4

Penn State baseball (25-27, 11-13 Big Ten) lost 7-4 against Illinois (31-20, 17-7 Big Ten) in its final regular season game.

Head coach Rob Cooper’s squad grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third inning, but that quickly faded away in the next inning after Illini standout left fielder Cam McDonald hit a two-run homer. Both teams were tied 4-4 throughout most of the contest, until Illinois scored three runs in the ninth inning, clinching the Illini a series sweep against Penn State.

How It Happened

Penn State sent Jordan Morales to the mound as its starter. Morales led through three scoreless innings, pitching three strikeouts and allowing just one hit (by third baseman Branden Comia, in the first inning).

In the bottom of the third inning, Matt Wood recorded the game’s first score on a solo homer, the 12th of his standout season. Shortly after, Illinois responded with a two-run bomb from McDonald, giving the Illini its first lead of the day: 2-1, in the fourth inning. Penn State answered in the bottom of the inning to tie the game 2-2, but more was still to come from the visitors.

Illinois took advantage of Penn State pitcher Tyler Molsky in the fifth inning. Illini right fielder Danny Doligale, who had been a pain in Penn State’s side all series, hit an RBI single to center field to regain a 3-2 lead. Once again, Penn State answered. This time, a solo homer from Josh Spiegel in the bottom of the inning tied the game 3-3.

From there, both teams each scored once more before the ninth inning. Comia hit a sacrifice grounder that scored a baserunner in the sixth inning for Illinois, before Penn State’s Johnny Piacentino recorded a triple in the seventh inning, bringing home a baserunner. At the end of the seventh inning, the score was 4-4.

After a scoreless eighth inning, Illinois’ bats ultimately came through in the ninth inning. With Steven Miller on the mound for Penn State, Illinois loaded the bases. Then, shortstop Cal Hjeza hit a sacrifice fly to give Illinois a 5-4 lead. Illinois was not done yet, as Comia struck once again, hitting a two-run RBI single and taking a 7-4 lead to conclude the game.

Takeaways

  • Penn State showed plenty of resilience in today’s game, as it has throughout the season. Despite the disappointing finish, the Nittany Lions hung with one of the better teams in the Big Ten – a mindset that is important to have, entering the Big Ten tournament.
  • Jordan Morales was very efficient on the mound in today’s game. Morales allowed no runs while striking out three batters over three innings pitched. If the pitching can continue some of that momentum through the tournament, perhaps Penn State can make an impact.
  • Illinois is certainly a strong team. The Nittany Lions deserve props for battling the entire game the way they did, but it’s very hard to take down a team hitting .293, which is third-best in the Big Ten.

What’s Next

Penn State will head to the Big Ten tournament for the first time since 2012. The tournament is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, May 25, at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska. Their opponent is yet to be announced.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a sophomore 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 isn't fun these days. If you want to keep in touch with Nolan, follow him on Instagram @_nolanwick or on Twitter @nolan_wick.

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