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Penn State Baseball Walks Off Rutgers 11-10

Penn State baseball (23-22, 9-12 Big Ten) beat Rutgers (27-23, 5-16 Big Ten) 11-10 on Sunday in its home series finale.

Mason Horwat pitched four scoreless innings in relief and Joe Jaconski delivered the game-winning hit in the ninth inning to cap off an improbable comeback for the Nittany Lions.

How It Happened

After giving up a leadoff single to Johnny Volpe, Matt Morash settled down to retire the next three batters he faced to hold Rutgers scoreless in the top half of the first inning.

Rutgers starter Jake Marshall retired the first two Penn State bats with ease but issued a walk to Adam Cecere with two outs. Having advanced to third on an error, Cecere was brought home by a Bobby Marsh single giving Penn State the first run of the game. Grant Norris followed up Marsh with a single of his own but Marshall fought back to retire the next batter and end the inning.

Morash’s second inning of work was far more eventful than his first, as the Scarlet Knights loaded the bases against the left-hander thanks to a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch. Batting with the bases loaded and one out, Cameron Love smacked a sacrifice fly to deep right field to tie the game at one. With two outs, Volpe lined an RBI single over the head of Kyle Hannon to give Rutgers a 2-1 lead.

With Penn State needing a win to keep their postseason hopes alive, head coach Mike Gambino called on Ben DeMell to keep the Nittany Lions deficit at one. It took just two pitches for Josh Kuroda-Grauer to extend the Rutgers lead to two with an RBI single of his own. DeMell was able to stop the bleeding after he forced Ty Doucette to hit a weak fly ball to left field for the final out.

Tayven Kelley reached base via a hit-by-pitch with one out in the Nittany Lions half of the third inning and advanced to third thanks to a ground-rule double to left-center field off the bat of Hannon. With runners on second and third with one out, Jaconski smacked a ground ball to second base that allowed Kelley to score from third and cut the Penn State deficit to 3-2. As Penn State threatened to tie the game, Marshall held the Nittany Lions to just one run as he forced JT Marr to ground out to end the inning.

DeMell kept the Scarlet Knights’ bats at bay in the third inning as he retired them in order. Much like Rutgers, the Nittany Lions also went down in order to end its half of the inning.

The Rutgers bats came back alive to open the fourth inning, with the first two batters reaching base via an error and single. With runners on the corners and no outs, Love laid down a sacrifice bunt to expand the Scarlet Knights lead to two. After Volpe worked a walk, Kuroda-Graue lined a single into left field that scored another run to extend Rutgers’ lead to 5-2. Doucette continued the hit parade by smacking a single to right field, loading the bases, and causing Penn State to make another pitching change, this time calling on Mason Butash to stop the bleeding.

Having entered the game with the bases loaded, Butash walked in three runs as he only threw three strikes to the three batters he faced. With Butash unable to command the strike zone, Penn State once again made a pitching change and called on David Lee. The new Nittany Lions pitcher plunked the first batter he faced to give Rutgers a 9-2 lead but forced a double play to escape the inning a batter later.

After allowing Bryce Molinaro to reach on an error, Marshall was pulled from the game due to an injury and Ethan Bowen took the mound in his place. Bowen walked Matt Maloney and plunked Kelley, loading the bases with no outs before he also exited the game due to injury. With Ben Gorski entering the game facing a 3-0 count and the bases loaded, he fought back to work the count full against Hannon, but eventually walked the senior and forced in a run.

Jaconski kept the merry-go-round spinning as he singled to bring Maloney home, cutting the deficit to 9-4. With the bases remaining loaded, Marr followed the base hit with an RBI fielder-choice to get the Nittany Lions within four runs. Still searching for his first hit of the weekend, Cecere hit a hard ground ball right to the first baseman who converted a double play to end the inning.

Horwat came on in relief of Lee and delivered a one-two-three inning for the Nittany Lions. Penn State got another run back in its half of the fifth inning as Maloney ripped a double into the left field gap, scoring Norris after he reached with a single. Sans a hit by pitch, Horwat pitched another clean inning in the sixth that included a strikeout.

Penn State went down in three batters to end the sixth inning and Horwat once again recorded a scoreless inning to open the seventh. With just nine outs remaining for the Nittany Lions, they once again went down in quick succession to end the inning.

As Horwat remained in the game, Rutgers got a runner into scoring position but was unable to drive him in as the Nittany Lions right-hander worked another scoreless inning. After Sam Portnoy got the first two outs of the Penn State half of the eighth inning, he plunked Kelley and cause another pitching change for the Scarlet Knights. With Joe Mazza pitching and raindrops beginning to fall, Hannon and Jaconski both worked walks to load the bases for Marr.

The first pitch to Marr bounced in front of the plate and got away from the catcher, allowing Kelley to score from third and the runners to advance into scoring position. Mazza walked Marr, loading the bases for a struggling Cecere. The struggles continued for the Penn State star, as he rolled over to first and the score remained 9-7 in favor of the Scarlet Knights.

Anthony Steele came on in relief of Horwat and allowed an RBI triple to Love that extended the Scarlet Knights lead to 10-7.

Down to the final three outs for Penn State, Marsh and Norris ripped back-to-back home runs to get within one run with no outs in the inning. Back-to-back singles by Molinaro and Maloney gave the Nittany Lions runners on first and second as they searched for the tying run.

Kelley laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Molinaro and the pinch runner Matt DiMartini to second and third for Hannon. A wild pitch from Mazza allowed Molinaro to score and the Nittany Lions to tie the game at 10-10. With DiMartini now on third, Jaconski ripped a single into left to give Penn State yet another walk-off win.

Takeaways

  • Two walk-offs in one weekend. The roller coaster that is Penn State baseball continued on Sunday, as the Nittany Lions came back from a 9-2 deficit in the fourth and a 10-7 deficit in the ninth to stun the Scarlet Knights.
  • Walks were a problem for the Penn State pitching staff, as the staff surrendered a total of six walks, including three consecutive walks with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.
  • Cecere has struggled at the plate as of late and this only continued on Sunday, as the senior reached base via a walk and failed to record a hit. Perhaps the costliest moment of his weekend came in the eighth inning on Sunday, where Cecere batted with Penn State down just two runs. Cecere rolled over for an out, and for Penn State to have any chance at the Big Ten tournament heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Cecere will need to get his bat going.
  • Penn State got the job done this weekend with its series win and has itself in prime position to make the Big Ten Tournament with a strong performance against Maryland in College Park.

What’s Next?

Penn State will travel to western Pennsylvania for a Tuesday afternoon matchup with Pitt. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.

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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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