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Steven Hill (Photo Courtesy of Dennis Hubbard)
March 19, 2011
WICHITA, Kan. - Steven Hill fired another gem while the offense backed his efforts with 12 hits, including three by Bobby Jacobs, as the Penn State baseball team upended No. 26 Wichita State, 4-2, on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Eck Stadium.
Hill tossed 7.1 innings and allowed just one run and three hits while striking out six against the Shockers (13-5). His performance marked the fourth time in five starts that he surrendered two runs or less while tossing at least six innings. For his efforts, he improved to 2-1 while upping his strikeout total to 27.
A day after roping two hits in the series opener, Jacobs continued his hot streak as he went 3-for-3 with a run scored for the Nittany Lions (11-6). Joey DeBernardis and Ryan Clark also chipped in with two hits, while Jordan Steranka and Michael Glantz each knocked in a run.
After sitting through two and a half hours worth of weather delays before the game started, the Nittany Lions quickly knocked off any rust with a two-run rally in the top of the second. DeBernardis opened the inning with a single to right before Jacobs followed with a one-out hit to left. After coming away empty-handed during similar situations in yesterday's ballgame, PSU changed the script and came through in the clutch as Clark punched a base hit to left that plated the squad's first run of the series.
With a pair of runners still on base, Glantz landed another blow. On the second pitch he saw, the senior shortstop jerked a key double into left center that chased in Jacobs before Clark was cut down at the plate following a pair of excellent relay throws.
Holding a 2-0 advantage, Hill was on cruise control on the mound. After the Shockers roped a leadoff double to start the game, the sophomore ace mowed through the Wichita State lineup. Following the hit, he retired 13 straight batters, highlighted by perfect frames in the second, third, and fourth. He also struck out four over that stretch while blending a tough fastball with a devastating off-speed pitch.
After a pair of PSU miscues finally snapped the streak and allowed two runners to reach in the bottom of the fifth, Tyler Grimes added Wichita State's second hit of the game to start the sixth. Although the WSU shortstop eventually swiped second, Hill made sure he was left stranded there after inducing two pop flys while mixing in his fifth strikeout of the contest.
Later, in the seventh, Wichita State put another runner on second following a two-base error. Although a momentary defensive lapse put the squad in a tough situation, Penn State fittingly worked out of the jam following an excellent defensive play. Ryan Hege uncorked a rocket to third but Steranka knocked it down. After collecting himself, he fired over to first where DeBernardis made a phenomenal scoop on a short hop that helped put an end to the rally.
With the Shockers showing newfound life, Penn State went back to work at the plate. Although WSU reliever Grant Muncrief looked sharp in his first two innings on the hill, the Lions got to him in the top of the seventh. Luis Montesinos opened the surge with a walk before Steranka unloaded a blast that landed just inside the rightfield line.
As the ball scooted into the corner, Montesinos quickly made his way home while Steranka sped around the base paths. After sliding into third safely for his first triple of the season, he made it the last 90-feet when the relay throw sailed into the Penn State dugout. Following the play, tempers momentarily flared up and the benches cleared, but cooler heads prevailed and the teams were quickly separated.
Staring at a four-run deficit with time quickly running out, Wichita State mounted a comeback. Walker Davidson and Grimes worked back-to-back walks to start the eighth before Preston Springer poked an RBI single to right that gave the Shockers their first run. In an attempt to limit the damage, Penn State called upon reliever Ryan Ignas, who did his job perfectly and got the final two outs of the inning without surrendering another run.
Later, Ignas came back out in the ninth to wrap up the game. Although WSU plated another run on an RBI double by Don Lambert, Ignas settled down and put the next two batters away to clinch the victory. For his efforts, he earned his second save of the season.
Together, Hill and Ignas combined to allow just five hits against the potent Shocker lineup. The two standouts did even better against the heart of the Wichita State order, limiting the 3-4-5 hitters to just one hit in 12 at bats.
The two teams will return to the field tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET for the series finale.
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