Baseball Drops Heartbreaking 9-8 Final to Notre Dame in 10 Innings
Feb. 28, 2010
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Despite a pair of home runs from junior Ben Heath (Huntersville, N.C.), including one in the ninth to even the score, the Penn State baseball team fell to Notre Dame, 9-8 in 10 innings, at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge on Sunday. For the third straight day, the Nittany Lions went to extra innings, but unfortunately, the game once again ended in a walk-off. This time, it was the Fighting Irish who celebrated following a fly ball that got caught up in the wind, allowing the winning run to cross the plate. Penn State finishes the challenge with a 2-1 record for the second straight season.
A back and forth contest continued in the bottom of the eighth when Notre Dame's Matt Grosso hit a pinch-hit home run to break a 7-7 deadlock.
The Nittany Lions wouldn't say die as Heath led off the top of the ninth by cranking his second long ball in as many at-bats to tie the score once again. The two home runs tie his career-high while his three home runs for the season already tie a career-best.
Notre Dame had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the ninth to walk off with the win, but freshman Steven Hill (Colleyville, Texas) got out of a jam to send the game to extras. With runners on second and third and only one out, he struck out Brayden Ashburn and David Casey to end the threat.
A wind, that plagued fielders all day, proved to give the final blow as an Adam Norton fly ball to right field was dropped by junior Heath Johnson (Alamagordo, N.M.). David Mills, who preceded with a two-out double, scored all the way from second for the 9-8 final
Heath was the story offensively, finishing 3-for-6 with three RBI and four runs scored. Sophomore Joey DeBernardis (Lake Zurich, Ill.), who had a key two-run double, was 1-for-3 with a walk and hit by pitch.
Penn State jumped on the board quickly with three runs in the first inning for the early advantage. Sophomore Sean Deegan (Readington, N.J.) opened with a leadoff walk. After stealing second, Jordan Steranka (Pittsburgh, Pa.) reached on a throwing error by second baseman Greg Sherry to put runners on the corners. Heath followed with a rocket up the middle to plate Deegan. DeBernards proceeded with a double to left-center field to clear the bases.
The Irish responded with a run in the bottom of the inning as Ryan Connolly bunted for a hit, stole second, advanced to third on an Ashdown single and scored on a double play groundout.
In the third, the Nittany Lions capitalized on one of Notre Dame's six errors for a 4-1 advantage. Heath reached on an error, advanced to third on DeBernarids' groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly from junior Bobby Jacobs (West Chester, Pa.).
Notre Dame came right back with three runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the score at four. Connolly began the rally with a double, stole third and scored on a Matt Scioscia sacrifice fly. Mick Doyle and Norton went on to drive in its third and fourth runs via singles.
Johnson gave Penn State the lead once again in the top of the fourth with an RBI single through the left side to plate senior Louie Picconi (North Merrick, N.Y.) for a 5-4 led.
The back and forth battle continued in the bottom of the inning with the Fighting Irish plating two runs to take their first lead of the game at 6-5. Sherry led off with a double and scored on a Matt Scioscia single to center. Scioscia then went on to round the bases and score on a Steranka error.
The Fighting Irish added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Doyle hit a sacrifice fly to center, but Penn State responded in the seventh by tying the game at 7-7. Heath led off with a towering home run that carried over the fence in left-center field. The tying run scored when Picconi drove a ball to left field, which Connolly misplayed, allowing DeBernardis to cross the plate.
The Lions now look ahead to their spring trip in Texas beginning next weekend. They start at the YMBL Cardinal Classic hosted by Lamar University and face McNeese State on Friday along with Dallas Baptist and Lamar on Saturday. Check back to GoPSUsports.com for complete news and notes on the Nittany Lions.
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