Nittany Lion Comeback Attempts Fall Short in 10-8 Loss at Illinois
April 3, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Despite allowing six first-inning runs, the Penn State baseball team slowly chipped away to pull within one, but could never even the score as Illinois held on for the 10-8 victory on Saturday. Junior catcher Ben Heath (Huntersville, N.C.) hit his team-leading ninth home run in the seventh inning to cut the lead to 9-8, but Bryan Roberts came in to throw a scoreless eighth and ninth inning for the save. The teams play the rubber game of the series on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET, streamed live on BigTenNetwork.com.
Trailing 6-0 after an inning, Penn State (11-14, 1-1) responded with a single run in the second, two in the third, two in the fourth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh. But each time, the Illini answered with single runs in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh to maintain their advantage.
Redshirt freshman Elliot Searer (Lewistown, Pa.) set a career-high with three hits, finishing 3-for-4 with his first-career double and two runs scored. Junior Bobby Jacobs (West Chester, Pa.) was also 3-for-4 to tie a career-high, one of which cleared the fences for his second home run of the season.
After struggling in the first, sophomore Ryan Ignas (North Wales, Pa.) bounced back to throw 5.2 innings and keep Penn State within striking distance. A trio of Nittany Lion relievers held Illinois to one run over the final 2.1 innings.
Heath's home run already marks his ninth of the season while his three RBI ups his season total to 34. The long ball also extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games. He has two home runs in as many days to increase the Loins' total to six long balls in the first two games of the series.
The Illini converted six first-inning hits into six runs to put Penn State into an early hole. Casey McMurray drove in the first tally via a fielder's choice. Craig Lutes later hit a two-run single to plate McMurray and Brandon Hohl. Pete Cappetta followed with another two-run single while Adam Davis rounded out the scoring with a single to plate Cappetta.
Jacobs got the Lions on the board in the second with a solo home run to straightaway center field. Penn State got two more in the third when sophomore Jordan Steranka (Pittsburgh, Pa.) drew a bases loaded walk to plate senior Louie Picconi (North Merrick, N.Y.) and Heath hit a sacrifice fly to score freshman Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.).
Illinois got one run back in the bottom of the third on a double play ball to make it 7-3.
Snyder's clutch hitting continued in the fourth with a two-out two-run single to plate Jacobs and Searer and pull the Lions within 7-5. Incredibly, six of Snyder's 19 hits this season have driven in two or more runs. The freshman is now fourth on the team in RBI with 17.
In the bottom of the inning, Mike Giller responded with a two-out RBI double of his own, scoring Josh Parr to make it 8-5.
The back-and-forth affair continued in the sixth when Searer scored on a wild pitch to pull Penn State within 8-6.
As they had all game long, the Illini answered right back with a single run in the bottom of the inning to make it 9-6. Willie Argo drove it in via an RBI single to plate Davis.
Heath's ninth home run of the season and second in as many days pulled the Lions to within 9-8, as close as they had been all day.
A Lutes RBI double in the bottom of the seventh gave Illinois some insurance and the two-run advantage at 10-8.
Penn State was threatening once again in the eighth, but Argo made a sensational two-out diving catch of a DeBernardis sinking liner, his second highlight-reel catch of the day to prevent Searer from scoring from third.
Roberts then threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning to end any final hopes of a comeback.
The Lions close out the series on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET before returning to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Tuesday for a nonconference matchup rematch with Bucknell. Gametime is set for 6:35 p.m. Purchase your tickets today!
Season and individual game tickets are now available can be purchased online or over the phone. Please call 1-877-997-7453 or (814) 272-1711, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. for more information. Fans can also direct any additional questions or comments via phone, or by email (email@example.com).
Baseball camp information is now available. Call the Sports Camp Office at (814) 865-0561 or email them at SportCampInfo@outreach.psu.edu for more information.
Follow Penn State baseball on Twitter: www.twitter.com/psubaseball.