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Feb. 15, 2013
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The Penn State men's baseball team opened the 2013 season with a big win, topping Eastern Tennessee State University 6-4 in front of 910 spectators at Thomas Stadium. The Nittany Lions (1-0) were aided by sophomore J.C. Coban (Boca Raton, Fla.), producing a clutch double in the top of the eighth inning to give Penn State the lead and momentum needed to secure the win. The Buccaneers (0-1) will host the Lions tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. for the second game of the weekend series.
Down 3-2 to start the eighth inning, redshirt junior Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.) got the ball rolling with a single to third base, advancing to second on an error and allowing sophomore Taylor Skerpon (Sayre, Pa.) to advance to third. Coban stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded, as senior Luis Montesinos (Miama, Fla.) was walked moments before. The designated hitter smashed the ball towards the center field wall for a double, earning three RBIs as Skerpon, Snyder and Montesinos crossed home plate. The Lions were able to regain the lead, moving the score to 5-3 to gain the edge for the remainder of the game.
Cody Lewis (Laguna, Calif.) earned the win for Penn State, stepping in at the bottom of the seventh to hold the Buccaneers at bay. The redshirt senior pitched a total of 1.2 innings, striking out and walking one while holding ETSU without a hit or an earned run. Taking the mound in the midst of the bottom of the eighth, sophomore Casey Kulina (Hummelstown, Pa.) struck out the first batter he faced to end the inning, and went on to strike out a total of three batters with only one earned run to earn the save. It was the third of his career.
Penn State tried to get out of the box early on in the game, with sophomore J.J. White (Lansdowne, Va.) hitting a single to left field on a full count and two outs in the first inning. However, the Bucs held the Lions off with a fielder's choice to end the top of the first. Stepping in to shut ETSU down with a quick 1-2-3 inning, redshirt senior Dave Walkling (Nanaimo, B.C.) served as a steady starter, holding the opposition without a hit for the first two innings. The starter came away from the season-opener with two strikeouts, four hits and three earned runs in six innings of action.
The Lions drew first blood, getting on the board at the top of the third. Snyder was able to reach first base on a pitching error, and advanced to second on the throw. With Montesinos up at bat, the junior also reached on a fielding error, allowing Snyder to cross home plate for a 1-0 Penn State lead. The Bucs, however, answered right back in the bottom of the third, with Mason Hershey hitting the first homerun of the season on two outs. The defense immediately stepped up to taper off the momentum surge, as a quick play between Walkling and White shut down an attempted bunt by Jeremy Taylor.
The fourth inning was equally as back and forth, with freshman James Coates (Girard, Ohio) batting in his first collegiate run to regain the lead. Redshirt freshman Ryky Smith (York, Pa.) began the top of the fourth with a single to center field, and was then able to take second base as junior Alex Farkes (Boston, Mass.) was hit by the pitch. Coates' single to left-center allowed Smith to reach home for a 2-1 lead. Farkes eventually advanced to third on a 1-4 sac bunt play for Skerpon, but two back-to-back fly outs ended Penn State's offensive attack.
ETSU came roaring back in the bottom of the fourth, with powerhouse Clinton Freeman hitting a triple to the center field fence. Second baseman Derek Niesman's sac fly sent Freeman home, tying the game up at 2-2. With the Lions unable to score in fifth or sixth innings, the Bucs took a 3-2 lead with a homerun from Freeman to right field. Had Jeremy Taylor not been caught stealing on the previous play, ETSU would have gained a two-run lead.
Despite a double-steal in the top of the seventh from Coban and Smith, pitcher Jared Burton held the Lions to just one hit. However, Lewis took the mound and held the Bucs without a single hit until he was relieved by Kulina in the bottom of the eighth. After Coban's game-changing double, the pitching duo combined for a quick, 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, producing two strikeouts.
Penn State again loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, with sophomore Aaron Novak (Ambler, Pa.) and Smith each singling to left field and Farkes unintentionally walked. With Josh Jacques on the mound for the Bucs, junior Zach Ell (Plains, Pa.) reached on fielder's choice with Novak out at home, notching the first out of the inning. With a sac fly from Skerpon, Smith advanced to home to give the Lions a little more cushion with a 6-3 lead.
ETSU continued to fight, with Freeman tallying his second homerun of the game to center field on one out. With the score sitting at 6-4, Kulina struck out both Niesman and Dylan Tritsch to secure Penn State's first win of the season.
The Lions ended the contest with eleven hits and zero errors, while the Bucs notched four errors and five hits. Coban led the squad with three hits and three RBIs, with Coates recording an RBI and two hits. Skerpon earned an RBI and a run, while Synder tallied two runs.
Tomorrow's 1:05 p.m. contest can be followed via StatsBroadcast.
Check back to GoPSUSports.com for continued updates during the 2013 season. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/PennStateBASE and find us on Facebook at facebook.com/pennstatebaseball.
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