Nittany Lions Plate 10 Unanswered Runs For Thrilling 14-8 Comeback Win Over No. 24 Pittsburgh
April 13, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Trailing 8-4, the Penn State baseball team responded with five runs in the seventh inning and five more in the eighth on its way to a thrilling 14-8 victory over No. 24 Pittsburgh on Tuesday evening at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The Lions (14-17, 2-4 Big Ten) ultimately took the lead off Panthers' ace starter Corey Baker, who entered in the seventh inning and was touched up for three runs in 1.1 innings. Junior catcher Ben Heath (Huntersville, N.C.) once again spearheaded the Penn State offensive attack, going 3-for-5 with two solo home runs to extend his hitting streak to 18 games, tied for fourth longest in program history. The Nittany Lions now look ahead to a weekend series at Big Ten rival Purdue.
"It's a good win," said head coach Robbie Wine. "They got us the first time there at Pitt. It's a good ballclub. They have a good RPI, coming off a couple big wins against Louisville.
"It's huge for us in the end, RPI-wise and confidence wise," he continued. "We put a lot of guys out there who maybe hadn't been playing, so it was good all the way around."
Heath's monster day marked his second-consecutive three-hit game to once again tie a career-high. He also scored a career-high tying four runs, originally set earlier this season against Notre Dame. The two home runs in a game tied a career-high, set on two other occasions, one of which was against the Irish. In the eighth inning, Heath hit a long fly ball down the left field line, which went just foul. It would have marked his third home run of the game, falling just short of tying the school record set on two other occasions.
The junior catcher now has 11 home runs and 38 RBI on the season, becoming the first Penn State player with double-digit home runs since Chris Wright had 13 in 2001. Heath is already nearing the top 10 in Penn State single-season history and is only six home runs shy of tying the 32-year school record (17) held by Dave Simononis.
Pittsburgh entered the game ranked 24th in Collegiate Baseball's national poll. The Panthers have started BIG EAST play on fire, including taking two-of-three over No. 7 Louisville last weekend while opening conference play by sweeping perennial power St. John's.
Three other Nittany Lions extended significant streaks as redshirt freshman Elliot Searer (Lewistown, Pa.) went 2-for-4 to up his hitting streak to 12 games. Freshman Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.) had a pair of hits to improve his hitting streak to seven games with 12 total hits in that span, including five multi-hit games.
Sophomore Sean Deegan (Readington, Pa.) also chipped in with his second home run of the season while finishing 3-for-6 with two RBI. Sophomore Jordan Steranka (Pittsburgh, Pa.) finished with a career-high tying two doubles, including one that brought Penn State even at eight. Sophomore Joey DeBernardis (Lake Zurich, Ill.) recorded a hit and has now reached base safely in 22 consecutive games.
After freshman Neal Herring (West Chester, Pa.) tossed six strong innings, Penn State looked to a handful of pitchers to finish up the game. Juniors Jesse Alfreno (Grove City, Pa.) and Mike Pierce (State College, Pa.) and redshirt sophomore Drew Irsfield (Eugene, Ore.) all made brief appearances for the Lions while freshman Steven Hill (Colleyville, Texas) was called upon with two outs in the eighth and delivered the save, blanking the Panthers to go with two strikeouts in 1.1 innings. Pierce was credited with his first win of the season.
Deegan opened the game by beating out a grounder to first base. Two consecutive walks loaded the bases for Heath, who grounded into a double play, but Deegan slid in the back door to make it 1-0 after one inning.
After a scoreless second, two Panther singles put runners on the corners, and an ensuing sacrifice fly scored the runner from third to make it 1-1.
One inning later, in the bottom of the fourth, it was Heath taking the ball deep to the opposite field for his 10th home run of the season to put Penn State on top, 2-1.
Pittsburgh staged a rally in the top of the fifth, as two walks and two wild pitches put runners on second and third with two outs. Kevan Smith made it count with a two-run double to right-center to put the Panthers up 3-2.
The Nittany Lions came right back in the bottom of the inning as Snyder reached on an infield single and moved to second on a Deegan infield single. With runners on first and second, pitcher Alex Caravella's pick-off attempt got by second base to score Snyder all the way from second to make it 3-3.
After a two-run Pittsburgh sixth, it was Heath going deep for a second time, this time crushing a no-doubter deep into the night to bring the Lions back to within one with his second solo shot of the game.
Two stolen bases, three singles, one walk, and a hit batter were good enough to get three runs for the Panthers in the top of the seventh and put Pittsburgh up 8-4.
Once again Penn State answered in the bottom of the inning, as Picconi opened with a single to center field and quickly advanced to second on a wild pitch. With one out, it was Deegan, who went deep to right-center field for a two-run home run to cut the Pitt lead in half, 8-6. Singles from Searer and DeBernardis put runners on first and second for Heath. Facing Baker, who entered the game with a perfect 7-0 record, Heath did not disappoint as he connected on a single up the middle to score Searer and pull the Lions to within 8-7.
Steranka followed with a deep double to straightaway center field to score DeBernardis for the 8-8 tie. Later in the inning, a wild pitch brought in Heath from third for the go-ahead run.
Snyder began the eighth with a single, then stole second and third while coming home on a passed ball to make it 10-8. DeBernardis walked, then Heath brought the crowd to its feet with a long fly ball down the left field line, which would have been his school record-tying third home run of the game, but it went just foul.
The Nittany Lions added four unearned runs in the inning for the 14-8 lead heading into the ninth.
The Panthers loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, but Hill induced a strikeout and 5-4-3 game-ending double play for the victory, the Nittany Lions' first over a ranked opponent since the 2009 season finale against the then-No. 21 Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Lions visit Purdue for a three game series this weekend, before returning to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for a midweek contest with Duquesne next Tuesday, April 20th. First pitch is set for 5:35 p.m. Purchase your tickets today!
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