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Feb. 17, 2014
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. - The Penn State baseball team won its opening three-game series for the first time since the Nittany Lions took 2-of-3 games over North Carolina in March of 2007, by winning a thrilling 4-3 game in 10 innings over Gardner-Webb.
Junior Patton Taylor (Nichols, N.Y.) tossed the best game of his collegiate career on Monday afternoon, posting a final line of eight innings, two earned runs, six hits and five strikeouts to put Penn State in position to win. The eight innings pitched are the most Taylor has pitched in a game in his Penn State career.
Sophomore reliever Jack Anderson (Evanston, Ill.) picked up his second win of the season after pitching a dramatic ninth inning and sending the game to extra innings.
At the plate the Nittany Lions recorded eight hits and drew three walks. Sophomores James Coates (Girard, Ohio) and Ryan Richter (Wayne, Pa.) led the offensive attack, as each recorded two hits in the game. The sophomore tandem each picked up an RBI and scored a run on the day.
For the second-straight game Penn State opened with a run in the top of the first. Coates led off the inning with a chopper between the pitcher and catcher to reach first on a single. The sophomore then stole second and moved to third off a Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.) groundout to second. Coates came around to score off a groundout from Greg Guers (Langhorne, Pa.) to put the Nittany Lions up 1-0.
Taylor made quick work of the Bulldog batters in the first, retiring all three hitters in order, while throwing just seven pitches.
Both Taylor and Gardner-Webb's Erik Heiligenstadt dominated the opposing offenses over the next three innings, as the Nittany Lions and Bulldogs combined for three hits between the second and fourth frames.
Taylor Skerpon (Wayne, Pa.) led off the top half of the fifth with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Zach Ell (Plains, Pa.). Richter then stepped up to the plate and roped a triple into the right field corner to score Skerpon and double the Nittany Lion lead at 2-0. The three-bagger was Richter's first of his career. With two outs, Coates lined a single to center to plate Richter and increase the PSU lead to 3-0.
After Taylor held the Bulldogs scoreless in the bottom of the fifth and Penn State was unable to muster any runs in the top of the sixth, Gardner-Webb leveled the game in the bottom half of the frame, scoring three runs to make the score 3-3 off three hits and an error.
Neither team scored in the seventh or eighth innings, as Taylor finished off a great first start of the season by pitching a perfect two innings in the seventh and eighth to set up a dramatic finish.
In the top of the ninth, the Penn State hitters were sent down in order, giving GWU a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.
Anderson came on to pitch the ninth in relief for the second time in as many days and found himself in a jam early, as Gardner-Webb loaded the bases off two hits and an intentional walk with no outs.
With five fielders drawn in on the infield grass, Anderson got exactly what Penn State needed, forcing the Bulldogs' Tyler Best into hitting a ground ball to first baseman J.J. White (Landsowne, Va.), who fired home to Skerpon for the force out who then fired back to White for the crucial double play to keep the Lions alive. After another intentional walk to create a force out at every base, Anderson struck out GWU's Matt Simmons to keep the game tied at 3-3 and send it to extra innings.
Penn State carried the momentum from the field to the batter's box and capitalized on its new life. Freshman Jim Haley (Upper Darby, Pa.) led off the frame with a single to left center. Aaron Novak (Ambler, Pa.) then moved Haley into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. After a Snyder walk, Guers hit in what appeared to be a double play opportunity, as GWU got the force out at second and recorded an error on the throw to first, which allowed Haley to score the go-ahead run and put the Lions on top 4-3.
Ryan Harper (Texas City, Texas) came in out of the pen for his first appearance of the season and sealed the win for the Nittany Lions, shutting down the Bulldog bats in order to improve Penn State's record to 2-1.
The Nittany Lions are back in action next weekend as they travel to Tampa, Fla. for a three-game set with the University of South Florida. Game one is scheduled to start on Friday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.