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Penn State Baseball Swept By Illinois In First Big Ten Road Series

Penn State baseball (13-12, 1-5 Big Ten) was swept by the Illinois Fighting Illini (14-12, 5-1 Big Ten) during the team’s trip to Champaign.

The Nittany Lions let up 43 runs during the entire series and blew leads in every single game of the series. It’s the first time the Nittany Lions have been swept in a series all season.

Game One

The opening game of the series saw the Nittany fail to score during the top of the first inning, going down in order. Travis Luensmann got the start on the mound for Penn State, but Illinois got on the board early.

Luensmann got the first two batters of the inning out but Camden Janik reached second base after an error by Adam Cecere in right. After a walk to Drake Westcott, Vytas Valincius drilled a single to left to score a run and make it 1-0 in favor of the Fighting Illini.

After both teams went scoreless in the second and the third innings, Illinois added to its lead in the fourth inning. Jacob Schroeder doubled to right center field and a groundout moved him over to third base with two outs. Coltin Quagliano was up next and hit a single to right to score Schroeder and increase the lead to two.

The Nittany Lions tied the game during their half of the fifth inning. Bryce Molinaro was hit by a pitch and Grant Norris smoked a two-run home run to left-center to tie the game. However, after tying the game, Illinois didn’t let the lead last for long.

In its half of the fifth, the Illini scored four runs to regain the lead. Cal Hejza was hit to lead off the inning and scored two pitches later after a double by Janik. Another double by Westcott put two runners on with no one out. A sacrifice fly by Valincius scored another run and then a two-run bomb by Ryan Moerman made it 6-2 for Illinois.

Penn State cut the deficit to one in the sixth after getting two huge extra-base hits. Bobby Marsh drilled a solo home run to left to make it 6-3. J.T. Marr followed that up with a single and Matt Maloney was hit by a pitch to put two runners on for Molinaro. The third baseman came up huge, smoking a double to center scoring two and cutting the deficit to one.

Illinois went scoreless in its half of the sixth, but Penn State continued to rally back. Kyle Hannon and Joe Jaconski led off the inning with back-to-back singles. After a fielder’s choice, Marsh allowed Hannon to score to tie the game, and Marr smoked a two-run go-ahead home run to left center.

Now up 8-6, Penn State couldn’t hang onto the lead. Back-to-back singles and a walk by Illinois loaded the bases to start the inning. Another walk by Quagliano scored a run to cut the deficit to one. After a pitching change brought in Anthony Steele, another walk brought in the tying run for the Illini. Hejza then hit a single to left for two more runs to make it 10-8 Illinois.

Another two walks brought in another run to make it a three-run lead, and with the bases loaded, Moerman smoked a bases-clearing double to left-center to make it 14-8 for Illinois.

Penn State got a run back in the top of the eighth off an RBI single by Jaconski but went into the top of the ninth down five. With one out in the inning, Cecere smoked a solo home run to make it a four-run game. The comeback was short-lived, though, as the next two batters went down in order to end the game — a 14-10 loss.

Game Two

Unlike game one, the second game of the weekend saw the Nittany Lions strike first. After two innings of no runs by either team, Penn State scored a run in the top of the third. Tayven Kelley and Kevin Michaels led off the inning with back-to-back walks, and a bunt single by Kyle Hannon loaded the bases. Joe Jaconski then grounded into a double play, but Kelley scored to make it 1-0 Penn State.

The Nittany Lions added on in the fourth thanks to a couple of home runs. J.T. Marr and Bryce Molinaro both smacked solo shots to increase the lead to 3-0.

In the fifth inning, the runs kept coming for the Nittany Lions as Michaels smoked a solo homer of his own to make it 4-0. After a pop-out by Hannon, Jackoski walked and Bobby Marsh singled to put two runners on for Marr who smacked a double to right-center, scoring Jaconski. Grant Norris then came up and hit a single through the right side to make it 6-0 for Penn State.

However, after that inning, things went terribly for the Nittany Lions. Illinois finally got a run on the board thanks to a solo shot by Brady Harding. In the fifth and the sixth innings, the Illini hit two more home runs, a two-run bomb by Camden Janik and then a solo by Drake Westcott made it 6-4.

In the seventh inning, the Illini took the lead. Coltin Quagliano led off the inning with a double to left and scored one batter later after a single by Cameron Chee-Aloy to make it a one-run game. After back-to-back flyouts, Westcott came up next and smoked his second home run of the game, a two-run shot to right-center to take a 7-6 lead.

After Penn State didn’t score in its half of the eighth inning, Illinois kept its foot on the gas with an emphatic 10 runs. It started with a two-run home run by Jacob Schroeder and continued with another run scoring on a sacrifice fly by Chee-Aloy.

A double by Hejza and a single by Janik added two more runs made it 12-6. After intentionally walking Westcott, Valincius singled in another run and Schroder followed it up with a single of his own for the seventh run of the inning.

Harding was up next with two runners on, and he smacked his second home run of the game, a three-run shot this time to right to make it 17-6 causing the game to end due to a run rule.

Game Two

In the final game of the series, the Nittany Lions started things off similar to the previous game. Jaconski worked a walk to lead off the game and Marsh singled to right to put two batters one. After a popout by Marr, Cecere smoked a three-run bomb to right.

Illinois failed to answer in its half of the first and both teams went down in order in the second. In the third inning, Penn State added another run. Marr and Cecere hit back-to-back singles to put two runners on, and Maloney smoked a double to right to make it 4-0 for Penn State.

In the bottom of the fourth, Illinois finally got runs on the board. The Illini made it quick with two solo home runs, one by Quagliano and the other Cal Hejza to make it 4-2. Penn State got a run back in the fifth thanks to a double by Marsh, but Illinois answered back with two more runs.

Valincius hit another solo home run for the Illini, and after back-to-back walks, Quagliano drilled a single through the right side to make it 5-4. After a scoreless top of the fifth from Penn State, the Illini finally took the lead in their half of the inning.

Hejza led off the fifth with a single, Janik was hit by a pitch, and Drake Westcott walked to load the bases. After grabbing two outs, Schroeder drilled a grand slam to left field to make it 8-5 Illinois.

Penn State got two runs back in the sixth. Jaconski doubled and Marsh singled to put two runners on for Marr. Marr worked a count and smacked a double to right-center for a run, and Cecere followed up with a single to make it an 8-7 game. Illinois answered back with two runs of its own — one on a double play and one on an error by Cecere.

In the seventh inning, Marsh scored a run off a sacrifice fly, but in the bottom half of the inning, Schroeder smoked another home run, this time a two-run shot to make 12-8 Illini. Both teams went scoreless in the eighth and Penn State went into the top of the ninth inning down four runs.

Down to their last three outs, the Nittany Lions went down in order 1-2-3, falling 12-8 in their third game of the weekend.

Takeaways

  • This is the first time all season that the Nittany Lions have been swept in any series. Coming into the weekend matchup against the Illini, Penn State picked up a huge win over in-state rival Pitt but was unable to grab a victory during the trip out west.
  • It was not a great weekend for Penn State as the Nittany Lions let up 43 runs during the series. All weekend long the pitching staff just found ways to let up runs. The Nittany Lions had multiple run leads in every single game during the series, yet they were unable to stop the Illini from scoring.
  • Despite the sweep, J.T. Marr had quite the weekend. The catcher totaled six hits and smacked two home runs, improving his average on the season to .435 on the year.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will return home for a midweek matchup against Bucknell for Dollar Dog Night. First pitch at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is set for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, and can also 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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