Penn State Baseball Tops Nexen Heroes, 8-7
Feb. 21, 2011
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Penn State baseball team capped off its stay in Florida with another outstanding performance as the Nittany Lions overcame an early deficit and capitalized on a five-run sixth inning to upend the Nexen Heroes, 8-7, during an exhibition contest at Progress Energy Park on a sunny Monday afternoon.
On a beautiful day when the Sunshine State certainly lived up to its billing, Penn State and the Nexen Heroes kicked off the inaugural International Baseball Series. The competition, which is hosted by St. Petersburg, features some of the top amateur and professional talent from across the globe.
The Heroes, who are one of three international squads in the showcase, hail from Seoul, South Korea and compete in the nation's top professional league.
Fans and prominent local residents came out in droves to watch the first game of the series. St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster was in attendance and threw out the first pitch. Reigning Miss Florida Jaclyn Raulerson also took in the action and performed a stirring rendition of the National Anthem prior to the game.
Following the pregame festivities, the Heroes got off to a quick start after capitalizing on leadoff hitter Jang Ki-Young's blistering speed. After the Nexen centerfielder beat out an infield single down the first base line, he quickly swiped second and third. Later, he came around on an RBI by designated hitter Song Ji-Man, who starred for Korea during the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
The Nittany Lions avoided additional harm in the first after flipping a nifty double play to end the inning and escape a bases-loaded jam. Following almost the same script in the second, the Heroes put three runners on again but could not break the game open. Although Nexen did plate another run, reliever Tim Dunn induced a 4-6-3 double play that helped limit the damage.
Trailing by a pair, the Penn State offense was held in check early by Hero ace Brandon Knight. In his three innings on the mound, the former New York Yankee walked Blake Lynd and allowed an infield single to Michael Glantz but also struck out five and snagged a rocket up the middle by Jordan Steranka that led to a 1-3 double play.
In the bottom of the third, the Heroes tossed another run on the board after back-to-back singles by Jan Young-Seok and Lee Soung-Yong plated Cory Aldridge, who played for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the 2010 campaign.
Considering the imposing pedigree of the opposition, the Penn State bullpen more than held its own. Following the back-to-back singles, Dunn retired the next five batters in order. After Dunn exited, Evan Dixon continued to silence the Nexen bats, keeping the Heroes scoreless in the bottom of the fifth. As the pitchers continued to do their part, the offense found its legs in the top of the sixth. Lynd opened the inning with a single to center before quickly swiping second. Later, after Searer drew a walk and Joey DeBernardis reached on an error, Mario Eramo beat out an infield single with the bases loaded to plate the first run of the inning.
With the bases still loaded and only one down, Ryan Clark drew a walk to knock in the second run before Luis Montesinos greeted a new Hero reliever with a two-run single that gave the Lions a 4-3 lead. Refusing to let up, Alex Farkes continued the surge with a sacrifice fly to deep centerfield that plated DeBernardis and gave the squad a little more leeway.
Holding a 5-3 advantage, Penn State held Nexen scoreless again in the sixth before the Lions' faraway foe chipped into its deficit with a single run in the seventh. Despite the run, PSU fired right back and never surrendered the lead.
In the top of the ninth, Farkes led off the frame by drilling a triple into the left centerfield gap. Zach Ell followed with an RBI single, and after Searer worked a one-out walk, Steranka drove in both runners with a two-run triple.
With a commanding 8-4 advantage entering the bottom of the ninth, Penn State had to fend off one last rally by the Heroes to pull out the victory. Nexen loaded the bases with no outs before Kim Il-Kyung drew a free pass to start the comeback.
Park Jun-Gjun came through next with an RBI fielder's choice, while Jan Young-Seok cut the deficit to one with a sacrifice fly. With the winning run at the plate, closer Jesse Alfreno refused to let the lead slip away as the senior right-hander got Cho Jung-Keun to line out to second baseman Gaston Escudero and end the game.
Dixon earned the win for the Lions, while Alfreno picked up the save. Kim Seung-Hyun was saddled with the loss after allowing five runs on four hits in 2.1 innings on the mound.
On the offensive end, Glantz finished 2-for-2, while Steranka and Montesinos both posted a pair of RBI. Searer also scored twice.
Penn State will return to action on Saturday when the squad travels to Richmond, Ky. for a doubleheader against Eastern Kentucky beginning at 11 a.m.