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Ben Heath was one of many stars, finishing with a double and mammoth home run.
Feb. 26, 2010
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Down to their last out in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Penn State baseball team racked off three consecutive hits to force extra innings before a Joey DeBernardis (Lake Zurich, Ill.) 12th-inning single gave the Lions a thrilling 5-4 season-opening victory over Cincinnati in the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge on Friday. Freshman Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.) tied the score at four behind a two-run triple while fellow freshman Steven Hill (Colleyville, Texas) picked up the win following 2.2 perfect innings out of the bullpen.
"I just tried to put the ball in play," said DeBernardis. "I put the ball in play and it luckily got over the shortstop's head. It was exciting to finally get a hit and stop struggling a little bit. All the guys were really tired and I was pretty pumped to get that game winning hit."
The rally began with back-to-back singles from junior Michael Glantz (Marietta, Ga.) and senior Louie Picconi (North Merrick, N.Y.). Snyder then hit the first pitch down the right field line and into the corner, clearing the bases to make it 4-4.
"He was throwing everyone fastballs," said Snyder. "I went up there looking for the fastball and he threw it on the first pitch. I tried to continue the inning and it worked out well."
The story of extra innings was Hill, who came through with 2.2 spotless frames to earn the victory in his first collegiate appearance. He entered in the 10th with the bases loaded and one out, but proceeded to strike out Logan Jackson on three pitches before inducing a Kevin Johnson groundout to end the threat. He followed with two consecutive 1-2-3 innings.
"I wasn't sure whether I was going to pitch today or not," said Hill. "I tried to seize the opportunity and go out there with as little nerves as possible, but it's hard to do with the bases loaded. Overall, it was a great experience and a great team effort."
After a number of chances in extra frames, the offense made it count in the 12th. Sophomore Sean Deegan (Readington, N.J.) began with single, stole second and advanced to third on a Heath Johnson (Alamagordo, N.M.) groundout. He crossed the plate when DeBernardis' clutch two-out single dropped into left-center field.
Sophomore Ryan Ignas (North Wales, Pa.) set the tone from the beginning with 7.0 strong innings while only allowing two runs. The first came in the second when Cory Hough drove in Kevin Johnson with an RBI groundout, but Glantz responded in the bottom of the inning with a two-out single to drive in Heath, to make it 1-1.
"I was just relying on [the movement from] my two-seam fastball to get ground balls," said Ignas. "The whole infield defense played very well. They handled pretty much everything that came off Cincinnati's bats. It just happened to work out that when I would walk someone or give up a hit, then my team would bail me out with turning the double play."
Pitching took over until the bottom of the sixth when Heath connected on his second extra-base hit of the game, this time a monster solo home run to left field to put the squad on top for the first time, 2-1.
The Lions ran into trouble in the eighth when Jamel Scott walked and T.J. Jones singled. Chris Peters sacrificed them to second and third, setting the stage for pinch-hitter Kiley Jones, who connected on a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw to put the Bearcats back on top, 4-2.
Every Penn State player with an at-bat came through with a hit. Glantz (2-for-4), Heath (2-for-6) and Snyder (2-for-5) all finished with two to lead the charge.
"It's good to get off to a good start and get a couple extra-base hits off your belt," said Heath. "As a whole, it's more about the win. It's big for us to get off to a good start and play well. It's a long season though, so you can't get too high or too low, but it's definitely exciting to win the first one."
The squad is back in action on Saturday morning as it faces Seton Hall at 10 a.m. Check back to GoPSUsports.com throughout the weekend for continued updates from Florida.
Season and individual game tickets are now available can be purchased online or over the phone. Please call 1-877-997-7453 or (814) 272-1711, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. for more information. Fans can also direct any additional questions or comments via phone, or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Baseball camp information is now available. Call the Sports Camp Office at (814) 865-0561 or email them at SportCampInfo@outreach.psu.edu for more information.
Follow Penn State baseball on Twitter: www.twitter.com/psubaseball.
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