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March 5, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. - Highlighted by a pair of strong pitching performances from Steven Hill and John Walter as well as an outstanding offensive effort in the second game of the doubleheader, the Penn State baseball team split its twin bill with NC State after winning the nightcap, 9-4, following a 4-1 setback in the opener on a cloudy Saturday at Dail Park.
The victory in the second game capped off a strong weekend for the Nittany Lions. Coupled with the team's victory in Friday's contest, Penn State (5-4) captured the series from NC State (5-5), which is a perennial power in the ACC and has advanced to seven of the last eight NCAA Tournaments.
The Lions benefited from a pair of outstanding efforts from their starting pitchers on Saturday to capture the series. Hill scattered two runs on six hits while striking out five in 6.2 innings during the opener. Walter followed with three strikeouts and one run over 5.1 innings in the nightcap.
Luis Montesinos was the offensive star, going 5-for-9 with two RBI and a run scored. Sean Deegan also chipped in with four hits, including his second home run of the season, while Bobby Jacobs added three hits and caught every inning of the doubleheader.
After struggling to find its groove in the early part of Friday's contest, the Nittany Lion offense looked sharp out of the gate on Saturday. Deegan got things going quickly after he led off the opener with a solo blast to right that nearly clocked the scoreboard and traveled into the tree line behind the fence.
Looking to do a little more damage, Penn State nearly struck again in the second. Mario Eramo and Montesinos both worked walks while Jacobs reached on a Wolfpack miscue to load the bases with two outs. With Deegan at the plate again, the junior centerfielder had a chance to break the game open but NC State's Danny Healey eventually induced an inning-ending ground out to escape unscathed.
The Wolfpack responded with their own rally in the bottom of the fourth. During the inning, Chris Schaeffer, Danny Canela, and John Gianis all poked singles to load the bases with two down. Just as his counterpart did in the top of the second, Hill settled down and worked out of the jam after getting Chris Diaz to line out to center.
After escaping the fourth with their lead intact, the Lions were not as fortunate in the fifth. Dylan Brown quickly evened the score after punching a ball to right that scraped the back of the wall for his first home run of the season.
Two innings later, NC State broke open the game after plating three in the seventh. After cruising through the first six innings, Hill put away the first two batters before issuing a rare walk to Peter Bako. Dating back to the 2010 campaign, the sophomore standout had faced 114 consecutive batters without surrendering a free pass before allowing Bako to reach.
Unfortunately, the walk came back to haunt Penn State as Bako proved to be the go-ahead run. Following a pitching change, the Wolfpack drew three straight free passes that chased in Bako. After another change, Matt Bergquist landed the big blow with a two-run double down the leftfield line that gave the hosts a 4-1 advantage.
Trailing by three, the Nittany Lions tried to scratch together a comeback during their last at bat in the top of the ninth. With one down, Jacobs, Michael Glantz, and Montesinos ripped three straight singles to load the bases. Despite their efforts, all three runners were stranded as reliever Grant Sasser struck out the last two batters to seal the victory.
Sasser (1-1) earned the win for his efforts, while Hill (0-1) took the loss despite another outstanding effort.
Taking a page from the script they used in the first game, the Nittany Lions jumped out to an early lead with a run in the first inning of the nightcap. Once again, Deegan started it off after reaching on a single before Montesinos followed with an RBI triple to left center that gave the team a 1-0 lead.
The similarities between the two games quickly stopped after the first inning, though, as the Penn State lineup continued its attack and built up the lead. In the third, the squad tacked on three insurance runs behind a well-balanced effort. Blake Lynd, Deegan, and Montesinos loaded the bases with three straight singles. Steranka and DeBernardis followed with a pair of RBI knocks before a Wolfpack error plated the third run.
Leading 4-0, Penn State continued to toss runs on the board with ease. In the fifth, DeBernardis and Eramo both drew walks to start the inning before Jacobs crushed an RBI double down the leftfield line. Later, a wild pitch brought in the second run of the inning to give the Lions a commanding 6-0 advantage.
Although NC State cut into its deficit with a run in the fifth and seventh, Penn State immediately responded with another two-run rally in the top of the eighth. Searer kicked off the frame by beating out an infield single before advancing to third on a base hit by Lynd. Deegan followed with a sacrifice fly before Montesinos smacked a single to center that chased in Lynd and gave the team an 8-2 edge.
After Penn State plated one last run in the top of the ninth on a bases-loaded walk by Deegan, the Wolfpack added a pair in their last at bat before Mike Pierce got Chris Diaz to pop up in the infield and end the marathon afternoon.
Walter (1-2) earned the win for his efforts, while Josh Easley suffered the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings.
Penn State will take the next two days off before traveling to Norfolk, Va. for a two-game, midweek series against Old Dominion beginning on Tuesday at 3 p.m.