By Scott Traweek, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (13-18, 2-4 Big Ten) completed a three-game sweep of Canisius College (17-17) on Sunday with the help of a walk-off single by sophomore right fielder Zach Ell in the bottom of the ninth. The Nittany Lions earned their sixth straight victory and are undefeated in the month of April, setting the tone for the team going forward.
"We're having a blast," said Ell. "I think that's the big key to what we're doing now is we're relaxing, we're sticking to our approaches and we're having some fun."
Penn State's performance this weekend was picturesque of their performance
throughout the six-game winning streak. The Nittany Lions have shown strong offensive
capabilities as well as a desire to win when the game comes down to the wire. The pitching has been at a consistently high
level, giving the team a chance to win time after time. Junior starter Steven Hill talked about the
change in the rotation over the past few weeks, resulting in some impressive
"We're just finding our groove and hitting spots," said Hill. "Everyone's just settling in and getting used to going seven innings a week, over a hundred pitches, hitting spots and learning from your mistakes."
Junior John Walter took the mound on Friday in game one against Canisius and set the standard for his fellow weekend starters. He went six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts.
Offensively Penn State caught fire, scoring five runs in the second, seven runs in the sixth and three runs in the seventh for a final score of 15-5. Seniors Sean Deegan and Jordan Steranka accounted for five RBIs each and both tallied three-run homeruns on the night. Penn State as a team combined for twelve hits with three players producing multi-hit games.
"Guys are realizing that whether you're up 10 or down 10, it's the same bat, same ball, same field," said head coach Robbie Wine after the game. "This game can be easy if you let it be easy."
Game two took the form of a pitchers duel between Penn State sophomore Joe Kurrasch and Golden Griffins starter Devon Stewart. After giving up an unearned run in the first, Kurrasch settled down for a dominant 6.2 innings of work where he struck out 10 and allowed just four hits.
The Nittany Lions finally got to Stewart in the sixth as Deegan belted his second homerun of the series, a solo shot over the right field wall, tying the game at one.
In the ninth with the game tied 3-3, Canisius loaded the bases with one out when sophomore pitcher Tim "The Gun" Dunn took the mound and induced a crucial 6-4-3 double play to end the threat. The game would then head into extra innings. Dunn proceeded to shut down the Griffin offense for 2.2 innings without allowing a hit or run.
"That just gives you momentum," said Deegan of Dunn's performance. "He just kept going out there and keeping us in it, so that was just big."
Sophomore catcher Alex Farkes started the rally in the 11th, battling through 12 pitches to earn the leadoff walk. Later, with runners on first and second, Deegan came to the plate and singled off the right field wall, driving in Farkes and taking home the win.
"I was just in a good situation," said Deegan. "Alex [Farkes] had an awesome at bat and then Elliot [Searer] had a good at bat too and it was only one out so I knew I could be aggressive."
The Nittany Lions rode the momentum into game three and took an early 3-0 lead in the second. Junior Steven Hill continued the string of high-quality starts by pitching a complete game, giving up three runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and just two walks.
After scoring a run in the fifth, Canisius tied the game at three in the seventh. Despite the brief lapse, the coaches kept their trusted starter in the game and Hill settled down, keeping the Golden Griffins off the board into the ninth inning.
Freshman Aaron Novak led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and was bunted to second by junior Luis Montesinos. Zach Ell stepped into the batters box and with two strikes, drove the ball back up the middle for the walk-off base hit as Penn State defeated Canisius 4-3 in dramatic fashion for the second day in a row.
"It's a great win," said Ell. "It's great for the team to keep going on the streak, so it feels awesome to get this for the team, it feels awesome."
Ell had a 3-4 day with two RBIs and was one of many heroes contributing to Penn State's weekend sweep.
The Nittany Lions head to Pittsburgh on Wednesday. They will face Michigan next weekend at home.