Penn State Rallies Past West Virginia, 3-2
Feb. 19, 2011
CLEARWATER, Fl. - Sophomore Steven Hill was masterful on the mound, keeping the potent West Virginia attack in check during the early part of the game, before his offense found its rhythm in the eighth inning as the Penn State baseball team plated three late runs to pull out a thrilling 3-2 victory against the Mountaineers at historic Jack Russell Stadium on a warm Saturday afternoon.
In his first start of the season, Hill struck out eight and scattered five hits and two runs over 7.2 innings. Although he earned a no-decision for his performance, the Nittany Lion offense came roaring back in the eighth. Mario Eramo's two-out, go-ahead RBI single eventually capped a three-run, five-hit surge that sealed the come-from-behind victory.
With the win, Penn State (2-0) continued to shine in the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge. The Lions have now won at least two games during each of the three tournaments dating back to 2009.
Although Hill dominated during his time on the mound, West Virginia (1-1) matched him pitch-for-pitch and kept the Lions scoreless entering the bottom of the eighth.
Trailing 2-0 with time running out, Penn State refused to go down quietly. After mustering only three hits in the first seven innings, the Lions more than doubled that total in the eighth. Ryan Clark and Blake Lynd opened the surge with back-to-back hits before sophomore speedster Elliot Searer beat out a bunt single to load the bases.
Luis Montesinos came through next, drilling a ground ball to short that chased in Clark and snapped the Mountaineers' 17-inning scoreless streak, which dated back to last season. Jordan Steranka followed with another RBI groundout that knotted the score before a single by Joey DeBernardis moved the go-ahead run to third.
With just 90-feet separating Penn State from its first lead of the game, Eramo came through in the clutch. The senior slugger smashed a line drive single to center that brought home Montesinos and gave the squad a 3-2 advantage.
Three outs away from the victory, Dave Walkling closed out the game in the ninth. Although West Virginia clocked a pair of balls to the warning track, the Lions held strong and came away unscathed as the team picked up its second straight victory to start the 2011 campaign.
Walkling earned the win after allowing just one hit and no runs over the final 1.1 innings of play. Steranka and DeBernardis led the offense, ripping two hits apiece.
Early on in the game, West Virginia struck first with a run in the opening frame. Leadoff hitter Brady Wilson was plunked by a pitch to start the rally before moving to third on a base hit by Dan DiBartolomeo. Later, Wilson came around on a fielder's choice, but Hill avoided any further damage after Steranka turned an unusual double play by snagging a high pop fly at third before quickly firing a strike across the diamond that caught the runner wandering off first.
Despite the early run, Hill settled in on the mound. He faced the minimum in three of the next four innings while keeping the opposition off balance with a nice array of pitches. During that time, he struck out four, including one on a devastating off-speed pitch that had the batter flailing wildly as the bat went spinning towards the Penn State dugout.
Although the Mountaineers manufactured another run in the fourth after Greg Buckner scored on an RBI ground out by Justin McDavid, Hill carried the Nittany Lions while the offense continued to try and find its footing against WVU ace Harrison Musgrave.
Without any run support, Hill refused to let that affect his performance. The sophomore continued to toss strikes and looked stronger as the game went on. He faced the minimum in the sixth, struck out a pair in the seventh, and with his 100th pitch of the game, sent Colin Durborow down swinging in the eighth. Following another strikeout, which marked his fourth in a row, he eventually handed the ball off to the bullpen and received a well-deserved standing ovation for his effort.
Although he left the game trailing by two, his offense finally picked him up with the eighth-inning rally that ensured Hill's efforts were not wasted.
Penn State looks to continue its season-opening surge tomorrow at 10 a.m. as the Lions conclude the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge with a game against Notre Dame at the Walter Fuller Complex.