By Scott Traweek, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Robbie Wine earned his 200th win at the helm of the Penn State baseball team on Sunday as the Nittany Lions (15-20, 4-5 Big Ten) defeated Michigan (16-21, 3-6 Big Ten) 6-4 and took two out of three games from the Wolverines over the weekend. It was Penn State's first Big Ten series win of the season and marked a turning point for the team going forward.
"Every game is so important and in the end we've got to start somewhere and
winning the series was important," said coach Wine. "Good two wins here."
The Nittany Lions fell in game one, 7-3, despite outhitting Michigan 10-9. Wolverine starter Brandon Sinnery pitched a complete game and prevented the Penn State offense from coming up with clutch hits when they needed them.
"We're hitting the ball," said senior first baseman Jordan Seranka. "We're just not getting timely hits."
Steranka and senior third baseman Joey DeBernardis both had successful nights at the plate, going 2-3 and 3-4 respectively. DeBernardis launched his fifth home run of the season and was instrumental throughout the weekend both offensively and defensively. Junior John Walter went four innings, allowing two runs on three hits with five strikeouts.
With Penn State leading 2-1, Michigan put the game out of reach in the fifth, scoring four runs on three walks and just two hits. Penn State would get one back in the bottom of the fifth, but the Wolverines responded with a run in the eighth and the ninth innings to end the game.
Penn State rebounded in game two with an offensive outburst, putting together 14 runs on 17 hits and routing the Wolverines 14-1. The senior leaders at the top of the order, Steranka, DeBernardis and senior outfielder Sean Deegan, led the charge going a combined 10-14. Steranka belted his fifth and sixth home runs of the season, tallying five RBIs on the day, and DeBernardis went 4-5, driving in three. Coach Wine talked about the play of his seniors throughout the weekend.
"It's experience," said Wine of his seniors' crucial performance. "Guys being there and trusting their abilities and not letting the anxiety of the scoreboard and the inning, whatever the situation is, get in their heads."
The Nittany Lions scored early and often, plating runs in six different innings and doing it in every way possible. DeBernardis tripled in the first to start the scoring frenzy, bringing sophomore Steve Snyder home from first base. Penn State then put up a five spot in the second behind an RBI bunt by junior Elliot Searer, an RBI single by DeBernardis and a three-run homerun by Steranka. In the sixth, with the Nittany Lions leading 9-1, Steranka knocked his second homerun of the game.
"I'm feeling great," said Steranka. "I know DeBo (DeBernardis) is swinging the bat really well, which helps me... It takes some pressure off me and I'm just seeing the ball really good right now."
The Nittany Lions proceeded to score four runs in the eighth for good measure. Sophomore starter Joe Kurrasch had another strong outing, throwing for seven innings and allowing just one run on four hits with three strikeouts.
"He was fantastic," said freshman catcher J.C. Coban. "He came out hungry; everyone on the team was hungry."
Penn State took the positive outcome from game two into game three and, behind a solid outing from junior starter Steven Hill, stole the series in a back and fourth battle to the finish.
Clutch hits were the story of the afternoon for the Nittany Lions who struck first in the second and later in the sixth, manufacturing a run with two outs in both innings.
In the seventh, with Penn State leading 2-0, Michigan finally got to Hill, scoring three runs on four hits. They were the only runs allowed by Hill who went seven innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts.
The Nittany Lions responded in the bottom of the seventh when Deegan came to the plate and, with two outs and a 1-2 count, drove a fastball high in the zone over the right centerfield wall to give Penn State a 4-3 lead.
"I actually thought that he was going to come with a slider," said Deegan. "I was like 'alright, just see the ball up' and then he just left a fastball right where I wanted it, up in the zone, so I just tried to hit it hard."
Snyder would score later in the inning after being hit by a pitch, stealing second, moving to third on an errant throw by the catcher and going home on a wild pitch.
After Michigan added a run in the eighth, Steranka crushed a solo homerun, his third of the weekend, to give Penn State a 6-4 lead heading into the ninth. Greg Welsh took the mound for the Nittany Lions and when the leadoff hitter reached on an error, Welsh shut the door, dropping the next three batters in order.
"It's big to send a statement this weekend against big rival Michigan," said Steranka on the series victory. "Come out and the seniors step up and Steve pitched a great game today, pitching was great this weekend, so I thought it was a big statement weekend for Penn State baseball."
Steranka's three-homerun weekend moved him to sixth on Penn State's all-time homeruns list with 18 games left to play. The crowd was also a huge factor as the fans broke last year's attendance total with nine home games remaining. The Nittany Lions return to Medlar Field on Wednesday to face Bucknell at 6:05 p.m.