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Penn State Baseball Takes Two Of Three Games Against Harvard

Penn State baseball (9-5) took two of three games against Harvard (2-7) during its three-game series in Cary, North Carolina. This was the final set of games for the Nittany Lions before their home opener against UMass Lowell.

The first two games of the series were moved to a doubleheader format on Friday, and Penn State emerged with both victories, including a walk-off winner. Sunday’s matchup saw a back-and-forth contest as the Crimson stole a victory over the Nittany Lions.

How It Happened

Game One

Travis Luensmann was on the mound, getting the start for the Nittany Lions in the opener. For Harvard, Sean Matson got the start for the Crimson, and for the majority of the game, the matchup became an old-fashioned pitching duel.

In the top of the first inning, Harvard threatened with an early single by Ben Rounds but couldn’t bring the run home. Joe Jaconski walked to lead off Penn State’s half of the first inning but also couldn’t get the runner home. The second inning was much of the same as both teams went three up, three down.

Luensmann picked up a pair of strikeouts in the top of the third, and in the other half of the inning, thanks to two walks by Kyle Hannon and Adam Cecere, Penn State threatened with two on base and two outs. Up came Bryce Molinaro, and after a battle with Matson, struck out to end the inning.

The fourth and the fifth innings were much of the same for both teams as each squad was unable to get any sort of offense rolling. Penn State especially struggled at the plate after five innings of at-bats and still hadn’t recorded a hit.

In the top of the sixth inning, Harvard threatened to score once again, getting two early runners on base thanks to walks by Rounds and Jake Berger. After a wild pitch, both runners advanced into scoring position with one out. Luensmann got a big ground out but hit the next batter Tyler Shulman to load the bases.

Up stepped Peter Messervy, and on the second pitch he saw from Luensmann, he smoked a single to right field. Rounds and Berger scored, but Shulman was thrown out at third to end the inning, keeping the damage at only two runs.

Jaconski stepped up in the Nittany Lions’ half of the sixth, and on the first pitch, he saw smoked a single to left center for the first hit of the game for Penn State. Cecere was up next, and after working a full count, drilled a double to center that scored Jaconski from first base to make it 2-1.

Molinaro struck out after the double, and J.T. Marr walked to put two runners on. Up came Matt Maloney, and on the very first pitch he saw, he smacked a single to left field, scoring Cecere from second to tie the game at two. Two runs were all the Nittany Lions got that inning, but the game was tied heading into the seventh.

Anthony Steele came on in relief for Luensmann, and after allowing a walk to start the inning, got three huge outs to get the Nittany Lions up to bat again. Hannon led off the seventh with a strikeout, but a double by Billy Gerlott and a walk from Jaconski put two runners on. Cecere stepped up and again came through smoking a double to center for another two runs to make it 4-2 in favor of Penn State. Cecere didn’t take long to score as he stole third, and after a wild pitch, trotted home to make it a three-run lead.

Penn State worked a couple more walks that inning and even got the bases loaded with two outs, but Molinaro was picked off at third to end the inning. Steele tossed an excellent eighth inning to preserve the lead, and the Nittany Lions didn’t score in their half of the eighth, taking a three-run lead into the top of the ninth.

However, Harvard didn’t go down without a fight. David Lee was let up an early walk to Sawyer Feller. Dominic Brancel was up next and drilled a double down the left-field line to make it 5-3 Penn State. Lee shook off the run he gave up and struck out the final two batters of the inning to end the game with Penn State victorious 5-3.

Game Two

Mason Butash was on the mound for Penn State in the second game of the weekend. Things didn’t start great for Bustah as Matt Giberti led off the game with a double and later came home to score after a sacrifice fly to get him to third and a groundout allowing him to score.

Penn State failed to answer in its half of the first inning after back-to-back singles by Bryce Molinaro and J.T. Marr. Grant Norris led off the second with a double but was later thrown out at the plate on a fielder’s choice, allowing Gerlott to stay on first. Tayven Kelley stepped up with two outs and drilled a single to right. After a bad throw by Max Lane, Gerlott scored all the way from first to tie the game at one.

Harvard retook the lead just two innings later. In the top of the fourth, Rounds led off the inning with a double, a walk, and a hit by a pitch to load the bases. William Lybrook stepped up and hit a hard grounder to shortstop for an infield single to take the lead. Lane was up next and worked a walk to make it 3-1 Harvard.

In the bottom half of the fourth inning, Hannon got on base thanks to a fielder’s choice and stole third base. Kelley then singled again, allowing Hannon to score to make it a one-run game. Harvard added to its lead in the fifth inning after three straight singles by Jake Berger, Chris Snopek, and Tyler Shulman, allowing another run to score.

However, in Penn State’s half of the fifth, the offense exploded for the Nittany Lions. Cecere started things off with a walk, and Molinaro singled to put two early runners on. Marr stepped up and doubled to left to score Cecere to make it 4-3. A sacrifice fly by Kevin Michaels allowed Molinaro to score to tie the game at four, but the runs didn’t stop there.

Grant Norris stepped into the box and smoked a two-run home run to straightaway center field to make it 6-4 Penn State.

The runs kept coming though as Hannon walked after the homer, and Gerlott doubled to put two runners in scoring position. Kelley was up next and singled for his third time in the game and scored another run to make it 7-4.

Harvard got a run back in the sixth after Giberti doubled once again and trotted home after a single by George Cooper. However, the seventh and the eighth innings lacked any offense from either team, and the Nittany Lions took a two-run lead into the top of the ninth inning.

Mason Horwat was in to close from the mound, but things didn’t start hot for him. Cooper singled and Rounds walked to start the inning with two on base and no outs. A bad throw by Jaconski trying to turn a double play allowed Cooper to score, and it kept two runners on no outs. Snopek was up next, and he scored Rounds after grounding out to short to tie the game at seven. Horwat worked out of the jam, but the game was tied heading into the bottom of the ninth.

Penn State did not answer in its half of the ninth, and the game went to extra innings. In the 10th inning, Harvard threatened with a walk, but three strikeouts from Horwat ended the inning.

Gerlott and Kelley recorded two quick outs and up came Jaconski. The first baseman worked a walk to get a runner on, and Cecere was up next. Cecere smoked on the second pitch to left, and the left fielder couldn’t come up with it. Jaconski sprinted home, and the Nittany Lions walked it off thanks to an error, winning 8-7 in 10 innings.

Game Three

The final game of the series kicked off with Jaden Henline getting the start on the bump. Like the previous two matchups, the Crimson struck first. In the top of the second inning, Jake Berger led off the inning with a double down the right-field line. Snopek walked to put two runners on base, and a fielding error by Grant Norris allowed Berger to score from second to make it 1-0.

Harvard got another run in after Tyler Shulman was hit by a pitch and Sawyer Feller singled to load the bases. Max Lane worked a walk on a full count to walk in a run and make it 2-0. Penn State threatened but didn’t answer in the bottom of the second, getting a leadoff walk from Marsh.

However, in the third, the bats work up for the Nittany Lions in a long way. With one out, Kelley reached on a fielding error. Jaconski then smacked a home run to right field to tie the game up at two.

Two runs is all Penn State got that inning, but it didn’t take them long to go out in front. Just an inning later in the fourth, Marsh led the inning off with a single, and Matt Maloney followed that up with a double to center, putting two runners in scoring position. Norris then smacked a sacrifice fly to left to bring home Marsh making it 3-2 Penn State. Back-to-back strikeouts by Hannon and Gerlott ended the inning, but the Nittany Lions had the lead.

However, that lead didn’t last long as Harvard got the runs right back. Lane and Giberti led the top of the fifth off with back-to-back singles, and a walk from Rounds loaded the bases. Berger then got smoked by a long fly ball to right, allowing Lane to score, and thanks to a misplay, Giberti scored, too.

Down a run, Kelley led off the Nittany Lions’ half of the fifth and started it with a leadoff triple. Jaconski did his job and got a fly ball to center for a sacrifice fly to tie the game at four. Both teams were unable to produce any runs after that until the bottom of the seventh.

In the seventh inning, Hannon led off the inning with a double to left. After a sacrifice bunt from Gerlott moved Hannon to third, Marr stepped up and smoked a single to right field to take a 5-4 lead. Harvard threatened with two base hits in the top of the eighth but failed to tie the game, and Penn State didn’t add any insurance runs in its half of the innings as the two teams went into the ninth inning with the Nittany Lions leading by a run.

Lee was on for the save for Penn State but struggled right away. Giberti led off the inning with a double and trotted home to tie the game after back-to-back singles by Rounds and Berger. With two runners on, Snopek singled for the third hit in a row to score Rounds from second and gave Harvard the 6-5 lead. Lee was able to get out of the inning with it being only a one-run game, but the damage was already done.

In the bottom of the ninth, Gerlott grounded out, but Kevin Michaels was able to work a walk and get the tying run on base. Derek Cease came in to pinch run but was thrown out pitches later trying to steal second base. With two outs, Jaconski struck out on three pitches, ending the game with Harvard winning 6-5.

Takeaways

  • The bullpen struggled during the final two games of the series and was ultimately the downfall of the team’s weekend. Despite winning game two, Mason Horwat blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning, causing the game to go into extras, and during Sunday’s loss, a lead was blown again as David Lee let up two runs, allowing Harvard to steal the win.
  • Joe Jaconski and Tayven Kelley had excellent weekends at the plate. Jaconski only had two hits in total during the series, but one was a huge two-run home run during Sunday’s game. He also had four walks during the weekend and was constantly on base. For Kelley, he racked up four hits during the series, with three coming in the extra-inning win in game two.
  • Travis Luensmann looked outstanding during his outing in game one of the series. The right-hander tossed six innings, giving up only two runs during his final inning of work. He struck out six batters which is the most he’s struck out in a start this season. After his bad start at Davidson last week, seeing Luensmann pitch well before heading home was a great sign of what’s ahead.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will return home to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for their home opener in a matchup against the UMass Lowell River Hawks. The first game of the three-game series is set to start at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 15, and can be streamed on BTN+.

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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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