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April 10, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Despite a solid pitching performance from sophomore Ryan Ignas (North Wales, Pa.), the Nittany Lion baseball team fell to Northwestern, 3-2 in 11 innings on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Ignas only allowed one earned run in a career-high 7.1 innings, but it wasn't enough. Junior Ben Heath (Huntersville, N.C.) did extend his career-high hitting streak to 16 games, tied for 10th-longest in school history. The teams meet in the series finale on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Penn State (12-17, 1-4 Big Ten) used runs in the fourth and fifth innings to build a 2-0 lead, but three unanswered tallies, including one in the top of the 11th, sends Penn State into Sunday looking to snap a two-game slide.
Redshirt freshman Elliot Searer (Lewistown, Pa.) extended his hitting streak to 10 games while sophomore Joey DeBernardis (Lake Zurich, Ill.) swatted a fifth-inning single and has now reached base safely in 20 straight games.
Ignas was strong all game and did a superb job of getting big outs with runners in scoring position. The Lion starter yielded just one run in the first seven innings, despite Northwestern leaving six men in scoring position.
The Wildcats held the Lion bats in check throughout the afternoon, only allowing six hits to the Penn State hitters. Nonetheless, Heath extended his hitting streak with a single in the fourth inning. DeBernardis, sophomore Jordan Steranka (Pittsburgh, Pa.), junior Mario Eramo (Houston, Texas), Searer and senior Louie Picconi (North Merrick, N.Y.) also added hits in the setback.
After 17 combined runs on Friday evening, the teams found themselves in a pitcher's dual after three scoreless innings of baseball. The Lions left one man in scoring position in the second, but the early story was Ignas.
Ignas pitched five scoreless innings before Northwestern found a way onto the scoreboard. With the score knotted at 0-0 in the top of the fourth inning, the Wildcats put a runner in scoring position after Chad Noble led off with a double to right. Noble advanced to third on an error, but Ignas forced an inning ending double play to keep the game scoreless.
The Nittany Lions made Northwestern pay for its missed opportunity in the bottom of the fourth. Steranka led off the home half with a single up the middle. Heath followed with a hit of his own to send Steranka to third. One batter later, junior Bobby Jacobs (West Chester, Pa.) notched a sacrifice fly to right, plating Steranka to give the Lions a 1-0 lead through four full.
Like in the top of the fourth, Northwestern put men in scoring position in the fifth, but was unable to capitalize. After Ignas retired the first two batters, Geoff Rowan reached on an infield hit. Wildcat leadoff man Arby Fields then doubled to advance Rowan to third. Ignas recorded the final out with a popup to second base.
The Lions once again made Northwestern pay with their second run of the afternoon in the bottom of the fifth. Picconi kick-started the inning with a one-out single up the middle. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, and to third on an errant throw to second. After sophomore Sean Deegan (Readington, N.J.) walked, DeBernardis tallied an RBI single to hand the Lions a 2-0 lead.
A pair of sixth-inning Northwestern doubles led to the Wildcats' only earned run of the afternoon against Ignas. The RBI double from Zach Morton set the score at 2-1. That is where the score would remain until the top of the eighth inning.
Northwestern's Chad Noble reached on an error to lead off the inning. A single and fielder's choice set the Wildcats up with runners on second and third with just one out. Ignas then intentionally walked Morton to load the bases with one out. Penn State then called upon redshirt senior David Lutz (West Chester, Pa.), who made his seventh straight appearance out of the bullpen. Lutz managed to hold the Wildcats to just one run, evening the score at 2-2.
The Northwestern bullpen struck out the side in both the eighth and ninth innings, which sent the game into extra innings. After Lutz retired the side in the top of the 10th, Deegan gave the Lions an opportunity to head home with a victory in the home half of the inning.
The centerfielder earned a two-out walk to give Penn State its first base runner in three innings. Deegan used his speed to notch his 18th stolen base of the season. The throw down to second slipped into center field, which allowed Deegan to trot to third, but DeBernardis flied out to center to end the threat.
Northwestern used a two-out rally in the 11th when Rowan roped an RBI double down the right field line, which plated Morton to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead heading into the home half of the 11th. From there, Northwestern slammed the door to hand the Lions their second straight setback. The Wildcat bullpen finished the afternoon with four hitless innings.
The teams meet again in the series finale at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday. Purchase your tickets today!
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