By Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion baseball team swept a doubleheader on Saturday to win the weekend series, 2-1, over Niagara.
After a narrow 4-3 setback on Friday, the Nittany Lion bats fueled a pair of victories to win the home-opening series.
The Nittany Lions tied up the weekend series, 1-1, in the first game of two by a score of 4-1.
Niagara was the first
on the board with Taylor Hackett hitting an RBI single up the middle allowing
Greg Cullen to touch home plate and gain the tally. The score remained 1-0 in
favor of the opponent until the third inning.
Sal Biasi came in as the relief pitcher for Eli Nabholz during the third, holding Niagara for at bay five innings. The NIittany Lions found their grove at the plate, gaining their first run in the bottom of the third with a base hit from Conlin Hughes as Jim Haley tallied the first run..
Haley drove in James Coates in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single to left field for the leading tally of 2-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, Tyler Kendall had a sacrifice fly, giving Haley another opportunity to gain a score, making it 3-1. Willie Burger hit a RBI single in the following play to set the score at 4-1.
Pitcher Jack Anderson slammed the door in the final two innings to five the Lions their first home win.
The Nittany Lions finished the game with eight hits and four RBIs. Pitchers Nabholz, Biasi, and Anderson allowed only eight hits from the Purple Eagles.
The second game of the day started strong with the Nittany Lions plating six runs in the first inning.
Penn State tallied six unearned runs, despite not getting a
hit. The Lions earned six walks in the bottom of the first.
Niagara needed a total of six pitchers during game two, allowing 14 hits and 11 earned runes.
The home team continued their scoring streak with five more tallies in the next two innings en route to an 11-0 lead through three innings.
The opposing team bounced back with three unearned runs in the top of the fourth. The Nittany Lions had three errors that gave the Purple Eagles multiple scoring chances.
In the bottom of the fourth, Hughes and Burger used a sacrifice fly and an RBI single to bring in two more tallies, leading 13-4. Graham had an RBI base hit in the fifth inning and a two-RBI single in the sixth to bring in runners Bowersox, Burger and Helsel for the last three tallies of the game.
Jared Fagnano came in as the Nittany Lions' closing pitcher in the top of the ninth, allowing no hits.
"I'm extremely proud of our kids," said head coach Rob Cooper. "To turn around in a short order and then play 18 innings. The way our guys competed and battled, to come back and win the series, I'm proud of them."
"I think it's just anyone of us who gets up in a certain situation, we have trust with the guys in our locker room," said Burger. "We were just working to an approach all day as a group. My teammates put me in a great position all weekend with getting guys to score. They give me those opportunities and it feels good to come through."
When asked about the errors that allowed Niagara to gain those four tallies, coach Cooper said it was the only negative of the game and plays such as that are bound to happen.
"Those are self-inflicted errors, you're going to make errors in the game of baseball, that's part of it, " Cooper said. "One thing we have been talking about a lot is going and getting the ball, really attacking it, don't sit back on it. To me, yeah they were physical errors, but most of those physical errors were caused by not playing the game smart. "
As for staying focus in the game after having gaining a high advantage early on, Haley said that it's all about treating every game the same.
"One of our biggest things is to treat every inning like it's a 0-0 game," said Haley. "After the six runs with no hits, which was big for us and gave us some confidence. The biggest thing for us is to keep it as a 0-0 game."
The Nittany Lions will play their next two home games against West Virginia on Tuesday and Rhode Island on Wednesday, both to start at 6:30 p.m.