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Penn State Baseball Wins Three Games During Opening Weekend Series

Penn State baseball (3-1) earned three wins during its weekend trip to Cary, North Carolina, and beat Army twice and Monmouth once. The Nittany Lions started the season hot, picking up three wins to begin the 2024 season.

While many of the games were close, Penn State hung through and find a way to begin 2024 with a winning record.

Game One vs. Monmouth

It was a Friday afternoon first pitch for the opening game of the season for the Nittany Lions and returning right-handed pitcher Travis Luensmann was on the mound to kick off 2024.

After a scoreless first inning by both teams, the Hawks struck first in this contest. An error by Bryce Molinaro and a single by Phil Stahl put two runners on base. Harry Padden smacked a grounder and beat out the throw to first breaking up the double play making it 1-0 Monmouth.

An inning later, things went from bad to worse for the Nittany Lions as after a Dylan Perry walk to lead off the third, Joey Ventresca smacked a home run to right field to make it 3-0.

Down three runs, Penn State finally got some offense going in the bottom of the fourth. J.T. Marr led off the inning with a single, and Bobby Marsh worked his way on with a walk. Both runners advanced a base on a pass ball, and with two outs, Matt Maloney smacked a two-run single to right to make it a one-run game.

Both teams went scoreless the next few innings, with Luensmann finishing with an impressive six innings pitched, giving up three runs, three hits, and striking out three. After he was pulled, Mason Horwat came in relief and things didn’t go well for him. Hadden smacked a double to lead off the inning and came home to score after a fielding error by Kyle Hannon.

Penn State went down in order the next two innings and went into the ninth inning down two runs. In the bottom of the ninth, Marr led things off with a single, and Grant Norris worked a walk to put the tying run on base. Marsh grounded out to advance the runners over and with two outs once again Maloney hit another single to right field to tie the game at four, although he would get caught stealing and the game went to extra innings.

In the 10th inning, Skyler Saunders started the inning on second base, and after a sac bunt by Casey Caufield and a bad throw to first by pitcher David Lee, Saunders scored.

The Nittany Lions then had their chance to bat in the 10th with Maloney on second base and a sac bunt of their own put him on third. Hannon hit an infield single, but Maloney was unable to score putting two runners on base. Adam Cecere walked to load the bases and Molinaro was hit by a pitch to tie the game at five. With one out and the bases still loaded, Marr stepped into the batter’s box and worked a four-pitch walk. That brought in the winning run and Penn State walked it off to win 6-5.

Game Two vs. Army

Frankie Sanchez was on the mound making his Nittany Lions debut. Like the previous game, this one started off with the Nittany Lions down early. Chris Barr led off the game with a triple and Sam Ruta brought him in with a groundout RBI.

Penn State went scoreless for the first three innings of the game. In the fourth inning, Kevin Michaels smacked a single through the left side, and Bobby Marsh followed that up with a single of his own, advancing Michaels to third.

Marsh stole second, putting two runners in scoring position and up came Matt Maloney. It was deja vu for Maloney, who drilled another single to right to score two runs, the third time in two games that he did that.

Up 2-1, Adam Cecere stepped up to the plate in the fifth and drilled his first big hit as a Nittany Lion. Cecere smoked a solo home run to right field that made it a two-run Nittany Lion lead.

In the sixth, Marsh hit a single up the middle for his second hit of the game. Tayven Kelley was called to pinch-run for him and managed to make his way to third base. Up came Maloney and once again he delivered with another single, this time up the middle to make it 4-1 Penn State.

Sanchez was pulled after six one-run innings of work. He gave up just two hits after the leadoff triple and struck out nine batters in an excellent debut outing. Army went scoreless in the seventh inning but in the eighth things for tight.

With Chic DeGaetano on the mound for the Nittany Lions, Barr led off the eighth with a single. Up came Ruta and he smoked a ball way over the right-center field wall to make it a one-run game. DeGaetano got an out on the next batter but then gave up a single and was pulled. Ben DeMell came on in relief and got two big outs to end the inning.

Penn State got two runners on in its half of the eighth but failed to add any insurance runs heading into the ninth. DeMell went back out to the mound for the ninth inning, going for his first save of the year. He started the inning off with a strikeout, but a hit batter put the tying run with the top of the order coming up.

Barr grounded into a fielder’s choice keeping the tying run on with two out. Ruta then stepped into the box with a chance to tie the game. DeMell battled and managed to strike out Ruta to win the game for Penn State 4-3.

Game Three vs. Monmouth

Carson Kohls took the mound for the Nittany Lions in their second game of the weekend versus Monmouth. Similar to the first matchup the Hawks struck first, but this time in a huge way. A single, hit by a pitch and a walk loaded the bases for Monmouth with only one out in the first.

Eric Sabato then smoked a single through the left side scoring the first run of the game. The next batter was Jay Bant who on the first pitch he saw smacked a three-run home run to right field to make it 4-0.

Penn State responded in its half of the first with Kyle Hannon leading off with a single and Adam Cecere reaching on a hit by a pitch. Bryce Molinaro scored Hannon with a single and a few batters later Cecere scored after a fielder’s choice from Bobby Marsh to make it 4-2.

In the third inning, Monmouth counted to stack on more runs. James Harmstead singled and Eric Sabato doubled putting two runners in scoring position. Bant scored one run on a groundout and Matt Scrivanic scored another after a single to left. The next batter was Harry Padden and he smoked a double left field scoring Scrivanic to make it 7-2 Monmouth.

The Hawks added another run in the sixth inning after Padden was hit to lead off the inning, advanced to second on a sac bunt, and scored after a single by Casey Caufield. Penn State got the run back in its half of the sixth with a Tayven Kelley solo home run to make it 8-3.

Down by five runs, the Nittany Lions couldn’t get any runs to score and Monmouth counted to tack on more runs. In the seventh inning, Padden tripled to right field to make it a six-run game and in the top of the ninth he stepped up to the plate needing a home run for the cycle and he did just that, smoking a solo shot to left field. Penn State went down in order in the ninth and was defeated 10-3.

Game Four vs. Army

In the final game of the weekend series for the Nittany Lions, true freshman Mason Butash was on the mound making his collegiate debut. Unlike the other games, the Nittany Lions struck first to put up a four spot in the top of the first.

Joe Jaconski and Kyle Hannon led off the inning with back-to-back walks and J.T. Marr reached on a fielding error to load the bases with no outs. Bryce Molinaro and Adam Cecere both worked walks to force in the first two runs of the game.

Matt Maloney was up next and he scored another run on a sacrifice fly to center to make it 3-0. Tayven Kelley was up next and he added the fourth run of the inning on a groundout to shortstop. Army did not answer in the second, however, Penn State continued to add more runs. After Penn State got runners on the corners, Hannon grounded into a double play, but a run did score increasing the lead to five.

In the next inning, the Nittany Lions once added to their lead. Cecere worked a walk to put a runner on with no outs, and Maloney stepped up and smoked a home run to right field making it 7-0.

However, Army finally got a couple of runs of its own. Will Parker scored the first pair of runs for the Black Knights in the fourth inning with a two-run RBI single, and in the fifth inning, the longball became a factor once again. Chris Barr singled and Sam Ruta smoked a home run to right to make it 7-4 Penn State.

Penn State didn’t take long to respond, as in its bottom half of the inning, they responded in a big way. Cecere led off the fifth with a single and Maloney walked putting two runners on. Tayven Kelley stepped into the batter’s box and drilled a three-run home run to left-center field to make it 10-4 Nittany Lions.

Two innings later, the runs just kept on coming for Penn State. Cecere led the lining off with a double, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored after Maloney grounded out to shortstop. Kelley and Billy Gerlott hit back-to-back singles getting two more runners on base and Grant Norris scored the 12th run of the game on a fielder’s choice.

The Nittany Lions bullpen was able to prevent the Black Knights from scoring another run in the game and they hung on to win 12-4, taking three of four games during the trip.

Takeaways

  • Penn State recorded the first wins of the Mike Gambino era. Gambino led his squad to three wins during the opening weekend of 2024 with multiple one-run wins.
  • Matt Maloney, have a weekend. The catcher who transferred from Dayton knocked in 11 RBIs during the four games over the weekend. If he can continue to hit like this this season, the Nittany Lions may have found a diamond in the rough.
  • One guy who struggled to get any offense going last season was Tayven Kelley, and the outfielder came through huge this weekend with the long ball. Kelley smacked two home runs during the trip totaling five RBIs
  • What a Nittany Liosn debut for Frankie Sanchez. The right-handed transfer struck out nine batters in his first start of the season looking fantastic after giving up a leadoff triple. While it’s only been one start, Sanchez’s play looks great and he and Travis Luensmann look like a solid one-two punch for the upcoming season.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will travel to Stanford, California, for a three-game road matchup with against the No. 23 Stanford Cardinal. The series is set to start at 5:05 p.m. on Friday, February 23, and can be streamed on Pac-12.com.

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About the Author

Matt Brown

Matt is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in sports studies from Bensalem, Pa. Matt is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and an overall sports fan in general. When not watching sports, you'll find him taking down any Dollar Dog challenge or rewatching the Big Ten Maps Commercial. To reach him, follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @matt_brown63, or email him at [email protected].

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