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April 2, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sophomore pitcher John Walter tossed a complete game gem and was supported by an outstanding defensive effort, highlighted by a triple play, as the Penn State baseball team upended Illinois, 3-1, during an exciting Big Ten contest on a nice Saturday afternoon at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Walter (3-3) struck out nine and allowed just one run on seven hits over nine stellar innings. On the offensive end, Jordan Steranka and Joey DeBernardis both scored a run, while Michael Glantz led the squad with a pair of hits. Fittingly, those three men also teamed up to turn an incredible 3-6-5 triple play in the second inning.
As they did on Friday, the Nittany Lions (16-8, 1-1 Big Ten) looked sharp in the early going against Illinois (9-11, 1-1). Sean Deegan started the first inning with a double to left that landed just inside the chalk line. After advancing to third, he came home when Steranka smacked a grounder to short. Holding a one-run lead, Penn State pieced together the defensive highlight of the season to avoid any damage in the top of the second.
In the inning, Penn State turned one of the more unusual triple plays in baseball. With runners on second and third, Davis Hendrickson fired a rocket to first. After snagging the ball on a hop, DeBernardis stepped on the bag to retire the batter. Noticing the two Illinois runners standing around third, DeBernardis began sprinting across the infield as Brandon Hohl, who started the play on second, tried to retreat back to his base.
With confusion sweeping the field, DeBernardis fired to Glantz, who quickly tagged Hohl for the second out. Briefly thinking he could score on that throw, Matt Dittman made a break for home before reconsidering his decision. Stranded in no man's land, he tried to scoot back to third, but Glantz tossed a strike to Steranka, who made a great tag on Dittman to complete the incredible play.
After benefitting from the defensive gem, Walter took over on the mound. Over the next two innings, he struck out three and allowed just one hit before his offense added an insurance run.
In the bottom of the fourth, DeBernardis fired a leadoff single to left before Bobby Jacobs was drilled in the back by a pitch. With two on, Glantz popped a single to center that loaded the bases with one out. Although Illinois starter John Anderson momentarily appeared ready to escape the jam following a strikeout, the right-hander uncorked a wild pitch that allowed DeBernardis to score.
Trailing by two, Illinois cut its deficit in half after scratching out a run in the top of the fifth. During the rally, Justin Parr lined a two-out double to right. One batter later, Willie Argo followed with an RBI single to right center that pulled the team within one at 2-1.
With the Illini trying to fight back, Walter never let them get any closer. In the sixth, he made a phenomenal play on a line drive back up the middle before flipping to first for a double play. One inning later, he struck out his sixth batter of the game in the seventh before adding two more in the eighth.
As Walter dominated on the hill, the Lion lineup added one more run in the bottom of the eighth to give their ace a little breathing room. During the rally, PSU took advantage of some shaky defense as Steranka reached second on a two-base error and later scored on a passed ball.
Holding a 3-1 lead, Walter returned to the mound in the top of the ninth to close out the game. With no need for the bullpen, the sophomore right-hander retired the side in order, including his ninth strikeout of the contest, to ease into the victory.
Anderson (3-2), who started on the mound for Illinois, took the loss despite firing his own complete game. During the contest, he struck out six and scattered five hits and two earned runs but was simply out-dueled by his counterpart.
The two teams will conclude their three-game series tomorrow at 1:05 p.m.