Hill's Shutout Helps PSU Take Two from Northwestern
April 9, 2011
EVANSTON, Ill. - Capitalizing on a complete game shutout by Steven Hill and an offensive explosion that accounted for 19 runs during the doubleheader, the Penn State baseball team swept a twin bill from Northwestern, 12-0 and 7-3, during Big Ten action on a hazy Saturday afternoon at Rocky Miller Park.
With tremendous run support, Hill dominated on the mound once again as he scattered seven hits while striking out a pair during nine stellar innings. Joey DeBernardis was the offensive star throughout the day as the Illinois native put on a show in front of his home crowd, going 5-for-10 with five RBI and a run scored.
After taking both ends of the doubleheader, Penn State (19-9, 4-1 Big Ten) captured its second straight Big Ten series. It marks the first time since 2001 that the Nittany Lions have started conference play in such an impressive fashion. It is also just the second time PSU has taken a series from Northwestern (8-19, 1-4) in Evanston since joining the Big Ten.
In the opener, Penn State got off to a great start with a quick two-spot in the top of the first. Sean Deegan and Jordan Steranka fired singles to put runners on the corners with one down. Although Northwestern nearly escaped the jam with a strikeout, Eramo would not let them off the hook. Second on the team in two-out RBI, the senior slugger came through in the clutch again as he laced a double down the rightfield line that chased in both runners.
After Hill escaped a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the first, Northwestern was not as fortunate in the top of the second. During the rally, Blake Lynd popped a single to center before Deegan and Luis Montesinos worked back-to-back walks. Steranka followed with a high fly to left, which allowed Lynd to tag and score without a throw.
Holding a 3-0 lead, Hill sent the Wildcats down in order in the bottom of the second before Penn State broke the game open in the third. Eramo and Michael Glantz both worked walks before Elliot Searer laid down a beautiful one-out bunt that chased in the first run. Two batters later, Montesinos capped the surge by smashing a two-run single to center that gave the squad a six-run edge.
After letting a similar six-run lead slip away last weekend, the Lions never relented and continued to hammer away at the opposition. Steranka scored on a double play in the fourth and DeBernardis crushed an RBI double to right in the sixth to extend their advantage to eight.
Almost getting stronger as his lead continued to grow, Hill never let the Wildcats back into the game. The sophomore standout retired eight in a row during a beautiful stretch in the middle innings before his lineup put the game completely out of reach in the seventh.
With just one on and two down, Penn State scratched together an impressive four-run inning. After Lynd swiped his third base of the game, Deegan worked a walk before Montesinos drove an RBI single through the left side of the infield. Steranka followed with a crushing double to right center that chased in a pair before scoring on a single by DeBernardis.
Although Northwestern appeared ready to respond in the bottom of the inning, Hill worked out of a two-on, one-out jam by inducing a pair of fly balls. From there, he simply buckled down and cruised. The Colleyville, Texas native sent the next six Wildcats down in order to close out the nine-inning masterpiece.
With that performance, Hill (4-1) picked up his third complete game of the season. That now equals the total compiled by the entire Penn State pitching staff during the 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
Following the impressive effort in the opener, the Nittany Lions went right back to work in the nightcap. Capitalizing on a pair of Northwestern errors, Penn State plated two in the top of the first after DeBernardis launched an RBI single to center and Eramo ripped a sacrifice fly to right.
Although the Wildcats responded with their first run of the day in the bottom of the frame, Penn State never let them get any closer. Two innings later, the Lions used another four-spot to pull away from their hosts. During the surge, Steranka legged out a triple down the rightfield line before DeBernardis drove him in with an RBI single. With a runner on first, Eramo caught a hanging slider and launched one of his patented moon shots to right that nearly put a dent in the Welsh-Ryan Arena well beyond the fence.
Three batters later, after Bobby Jacobs took a little bit out of Northwestern starter Dan Tyson with a grueling 12-pitch at bat, Ryan Clark took advantage. On a 1-0 fastball, he found his pitch and fired a solo shot to deep left, which marked his first home run since clocking a pair against Eastern Kentucky on February 26.
With a 6-1 edge, PSU starter John Walter and his defense went back to work. Although the Wildcats continued to put runners on base, the Nittany Lions used three double plays and a pair of crucial strikeouts to keep their cushion before Northwestern scratched out a run in the bottom of the fifth.
With the lead down to four, Penn State tossed an unearned run on the board in the top of the seventh. Benefiting from a pair of Northwestern miscues, Steranka moved all the way to third before scampering home on a sacrifice fly by DeBernardis. Once again, the Wildcats pieced together a modest response with another run in the bottom of the inning, but they were held in check after that.
After taking over in the seventh, Geoff Boylston struck out three and allowed just one run on three hits in 2.2 innings of work. While attempting to go for a three-inning save, he hit a bit of a rough patch in the ninth as Northwestern loaded the bases with two out.
Having no interest in seeing the Wildcats continue to rally, Penn State brought in star closer Ryan Ignas to work out of the jam. With thick fog rolling in from Lake Michigan, making the outfield nearly impossible to see from the stands, Ignas induced a much needed ground ball that capped off the sweep for PSU.
For his efforts, Ignas picked up his fourth save of the season, while Walter (4-3) earned the win after allowing two runs on seven hits in six innings of work. Tyson (1-3) suffered the loss for Northwestern after surrendering six runs on six hits in three innings on the hill.
The two teams will conclude their series tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET.