Penn State Falls to Eastern Kentucky, 7-6
Feb. 27, 2011
RICHMOND, Ky. - Despite jumping out to an early lead and posting a clutch rally in the ninth, the Penn State baseball team could not quite contain the Eastern Kentucky offense during the middle innings as the Colonels took control with a four-run fourth on the way to a 7-6 victory over the Nittany Lions during the series finale at Turkey Hughes Field on an overcast Sunday afternoon.
Mario Eramo and Luis Montesinos both posted three-hit performances for Penn State (3-3). Eramo also added his first home run of the season, while Montesinos chipped in with a pair of walks and an RBI against EKU (2-4). Sean Deegan and Elliot Searer both recorded two hits as well.
The Nittany Lions opened the scoring in the top of the first with a two-out rally. After the Colonels retired the first two batters, Jordan Steranka lined a base hit through the left side of the infield. With a runner on, Joey DeBernardis and Eramo were both plunked by pitches to load the bases before Montesinos beat out a dribbler down the third base line that plated Steranka and gave Penn State an early 1-0 advantage.
Two innings later, Eastern Kentucky avoided a similar situation. After getting the first two outs on a double play, the Colonels could only watch as Penn State fought back to load the bases. Eramo and Montesinos both fired base hits before Bobby Jacobs was hit by a pitch. Despite the threat, EKU avoided any damage after second baseman Alex Arovits gloved a shot by Searer to end the inning.
With the offense continuing to put runners on base, John Walter looked sharp on the mound through the first three innings before hitting a rough patch in the fourth. During the rally, Eastern Kentucky fought back behind some timely hitting and a little small ball
In the bottom of the fourth, Richie Rodriguez worked a walk before advancing to third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run. Ryan Faidley and Austin Grisham followed with back-to-back RBI singles to center, while Michael Garcia dropped down a beautiful bunt just inside the first base line that brought in Faidley and gave the hosts a 3-1 edge.
After the Colonels tacked on one more run following a Lion error, Penn State tried to cut into its three-run deficit in the fifth. Steranka drew a lead-off walk, and after Montesinos and Jacobs worked free passes later in the inning, PSU had the bags packed with two outs. Once again, Searer nearly came through as the sophomore shortstop rolled a ball up the middle, but Rodriguez cut it off and fired a strike to first that nailed Searer by half a stride.
Penn State escaped its own jam in the bottom of the fifth after EKU loaded the bases with two outs. In a tight spot, reliever Greg Welsh was called in from the bullpen and worked out of the situation after inducing an inning-ending ground out.
During the sixth, the two teams traded runs to keep the deficit at three. In the top of the inning, Deegan blasted a double to left center and later scored on a wild pitch. The Colonels responded in the bottom half on an RBI double by Jacob Daniel before Searer put an end to the EKU rally. After being robbed of a few hits earlier in the game, he returned the favor after making a beautiful diving snag on a rocket towards leftfield.
Eramo quickly shot back in the top of the seventh. The senior designated hitter found his pitch and blasted it off the batter's eye in straightaway centerfield for his first home run of the season. As they had all day, the Colonels immediately answered with a two-spot in the bottom of the frame to grab a 7-3 lead.
With time running out, Penn State pieced together one last-ditch effort in the top of the ninth. Eramo drilled a one-out single before Montesinos drew a walk. Searer quickly followed with a clutch two-run double to left center that brought the tying run to the plate. Sensing newfound life in the Lion lineup, EKU called upon closer Ryne Purcell to end the rally.
After fouling off a slew of tough pitches to keep his at bat alive, Blake Lynd greeted the new pitcher with a double that just found open spaces in shallow centerfield and brought home Searer. Deegan came up next and represented the winning run, but Purcell settled down. Although Deegan lined a shot towards second, Matt Phipps made a great play to his left before flipping to first to seal the victory.
Stephen Hefler picked up the win after scattering two runs and six hits over 5.1 innings, while Purcell earned his second save of the series. Walter took the loss for Penn State despite allowing just three earned runs in four innings.
Penn State will return to action next weekend when the squad kicks off a 10-day tour through North Carolina and Virginia with a 3 p.m. contest against NC State on Friday, March 4.