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Penn State Baseball Falls 10-3 To Kent State

Penn State baseball (18-14, 5-7 Big 10) was defeated by Kent State (16-17, 8-7 MAC) 10-3 in its final Tuesday night showdown at Medlar Field for the 2024 season.

Mason Butash was chased from the game after just three innings, allowing four runs on five hits, and the offense struggled to mount any momentum throughout the contest. Bryce Molinaro was the lone bright spot as he reached base three times and made a nice play on defense.

How It Happened

Butash got the start on the mound for the Nittany Lions and walked Josh Johnson on five pitches to begin the game. After advancing to second base on a passed ball, Johnson was knocked in by a Tim Orr single through the right side of the infield to give Kent State the opening run of the contest. Orr immediately stole second and was moved to third after a groundout.

Brody Williams grounded out the shortstop for the second out of the inning but drove in Orr from third to extend the Golden Flashes lead to 2-0. Needing to escape the inning and limit further damage, Butash forced Dom Kibler to ground out to first base for the final out of the inning.

Penn State was retired in order during the bottom half of the opening inning with Joe Jaconski striking out and the following batters grounding out.

It was more of the same for Butash in his second inning of work as the right-hander allowed the first two batters to reach base via a hit batter and base hit, giving Kent State runners on first and second with no outs. After retiring the next two batters and being on the verge of escaping trouble, Johnson slapped a single past a diving Jaconski, scoring the runner from second and extending the Kent State lead to 3-0. Butash avoided further damage by getting Orr to fly out to center field.

Molinaro ripped a double off of the wall in center field to give the Nittany Lions their first base runner of the game with two outs in the bottom half of the second inning. With a chance to cut into the Kent State lead, Matt Maloney struck out looking to end the inning and strand Molinaro.

As the Golden Flashes continued to attack Butash, Kyle Jackson led off the top of the third inning with a booming double off of the right field wall and was promptly driven in by a Brody Williams single into left field. Williams was immediately sent back to the dugout as Butash forced Kibler to ground into a 6-3 double play. Once again making a mark on the game, Molinaro flashed the leather and made an impressive sliding play at third base to end the inning.

With the Nittany Lions continuing to search for their first run of the contest, Jaconski smacked another two-out double to set up Bobby Marsh, who hit a towering pop fly to left field that was caught to end the third inning.

Penn State manager Mike Gambino made a pitching change before the start of the fourth inning, calling on Chic DeGaetano to keep the Nittany Lions within striking distance. After striking out the first batter he faced, the right-hander walked Lance MacDonald who immediately stole second base as Kent State would once again have an opportunity to expand its lead. DeGaetano worked around the walk and retired the next two hitters he faced to keep the deficit at four runs.

J.T. Marr led off the inning reaching base thanks to a hit by pitch but was stranded as Adam Cecere struck out and Grant Norris grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the Penn State half of the inning. The Nittany Lions’ offense was limited to just two hits in four innings of play.

The hits kept on coming for Kent State as Orr greeted James Lordi with a double down the right-field line. After forcing a flyout to center for the first out of the inning, Lordi worked around a walk to escape the inning with a nice pickoff move that forced a rundown and eventual tagout of Williams.

Devoid of offense for the first half of the game, Penn State finally showed signs of life in the fifth inning as both Molinaro and Tayven Kelly reached base with base hits. Batting with runners on first and second with one out, Kyle Hannon grounded into a fielders choice that moved Molinaro to third and sent Kelley back to the dugout. Hannon stole second and Jaconski worked a walk, loading the bases for Marsh.

With the left-handed bat of Marsh looming, Kent State went to its bullpen and called upon lefty Jaden Varner to record the final out of the inning and escape danger. After getting Marsh to fall behind in the count 1-2, Varner plunked the left-hander and allowed him to take first, allowing Hannon to score from third and put the Nittany Lions on the board down 5-1. With a chance to tie the game with one swing, Marr swung at the first pitch he saw and flew out to left field, ending the Penn State threat.

Ben Demell replaced Lordi on the mound for Penn State and was immediately greeted with a leadoff single by Michael McNamara. The right-hander struck out the next two batters he faced but allowed a two-out double Ripken Reese that moved McNamara to third. Johnson singled to third, scoring McNamara and extending the Golden Flashes’ lead back to five. Avoiding further damage, Demell blew a fastball past Orr for the third out of the sixth inning.

The Nittany Lions went down quietly in the bottom of the sixth inning with the heart of the lineup retiring in order. Anthony Steele came on to pitch the top of the seventh and surrendered yet another run to put Penn State behind 7-1.

Desperately needing a rally, Kelley and Michael DiMartini smacked singles to set up the top of the Penn State order with runners on first and second with just one out. Kelley attempted to steal third base to continue to put pressure on the Golden Flashes but was thrown out. Jaconski worked a walk and once again gave the Nittany Lions two runners on, this time for Marsh. Much like they had all game, the Nittany Lions squandered yet another opportunity as Marsh struck out swinging to end the seventh inning.

David Lee pitched the eighth inning for the Nittany Lions and fared no better than his predecessors, allowing the first four batters he faced to reach base and surrendering another run, giving Kent State an 8-1 lead. Lee loaded the bases with one out after hitting Jackson with an errant pitch and a wild pitch scored yet another run for the Golden Flashes. In a game full of disappointments, Penn State had a highlight reel play of its own as Williams flew out to Cecere in foul territory and the right fielder delivered a strike to Maloney, who tagged out Johnson on his attempt to tag-up.

Marr led off the bottom of the eighth with a single and was moved to second after Molinaro walked. Marr was driven home by a two-out single to left field courtesy of Maloney, cutting the Kent State lead to 9-2. After advancing to third on the base hit, Molinaro scored on a passed ball to once again cut the lead to 9-3. The threat ended there, however, as Kelley struck out swinging.

Kent State scored again in the top half of the ninth inning, ballooning its lead to 10-3. Penn State went quietly in the bottom half as Benny Roebuck struck out two as he retired the Nittany Lions in order to end the game.

Takeaways

  • Molinaro was the lone bright spot for the Nittany Lions as the amassed two hits and reached base on a walk, with one of the hits being a booming double. The infielder also made a spectacular play with his glove as he made a sliding stop at third base and fired a strike across the diamond to throw the runner out at first base.
  • Baseball is a game filled with ups and downs, with today being on the downside of the spectrum for Butash. The right-hander allowed four runs on five hits in just three innings of work, with his ERA jumping to 6.59 for the season.
  • Today’s loss was the third consecutive for Penn State as the team’s streaky play continues. Since winning the Big Ten opener against Michigan, the Nittany Lions have seen stretches where they have lost five of six games, won five in a row, and lost three in a row. Penn State must find a level of consistency if the team hopes to play postseason games.
  • Gambino has continued to praise the Penn State faithful all season long, noting how fans have made an impact on opposing teams. Today was no different as the stands were filled and the fans were loud throughout the contest. Fans set another attendance record as 5,025 showed up to support the Nittany Lions.

What’s Next?

Penn State baseball will travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State as it continues conference play. The first game of the series will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 19, and can be watched on Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Dennis Wilkins

Dennis is a third-year journalism major from Brick, New Jersey. He has a love-hate relationship with every team he roots for, especially the New York Giants. When he's not watching Jack Hughes highlights, he can be found playing golf or listening to music. Direct all complaints to him via email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@denniswilkins27).

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