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April 17, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State baseball team split its Big Ten doubleheader with Purdue on a windy Sunday afternoon as the Nittany Lions captured the opener, 4-3, before dropping the second game, 15-4, at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
During the twin bill, Sean Deegan helped lead the offense as he had three hits and four runs scored for Penn State (21-12, 5-4 Big Ten). Jordan Steranka also had a nice afternoon as he tallied three hits to go along with three RBI, including the crucial go-ahead run in the seventh inning of the first game that helped sink Purdue (24-12, 5-4).
In the opener, Penn State lit up the scoreboard with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Deegan got things going by blasting a 2-0 pitch to right center for his third leadoff home run of the season. One batter later, Luis Montesinos was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a single by Steranka. Later, he advanced to third on a wild pitch and completed the circuit on a balk to give the hosts a quick 2-0 advantage.
Trailing for the first time all series, the Boilermakers quickly cut their deficit in half without the benefit of a hit in the second. Purdue worked four walks in the frame, including the last one by David Miller which chased in the lone run of the inning. Penn State avoided any more damage after John Walter posted his first strikeout of the game before the squad flipped an around-the-horn double play to end the threat.
Following the early outburst by both teams, Walter and Brad Schreiber began to settle in on the mound. Although both starters battled the strike zone in the middle innings, they continued to work out of jams. Alex Farkes played a big role in that, gunning down a pair of attempted base stealers to keep the score at 2-1.
With the pitching and defense getting the best of the offense in the middle innings, the lineups quickly flipped the script starting in the bottom of the sixth. After Joey DeBernardis reached on a fielder's choice, he moved to second when Mario Eramo worked a one-out walk. Following his strong defensive performance, Farkes came through again at the plate as the freshman catcher blasted an RBI single to left that gave the squad a two-run lead.
Later, Michael Glantz worked a walk to load the bases with only one down to continue the rally. Unfortunately, Purdue escaped without any further damager after calling upon reliever Blake Mascarella, who got Elliot Searer to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play.
Still within striking distance, the Boilermakers pieced together their biggest rally of the game. Purdue loaded the bases with only one out, which came on a great play by reliever Jesse Alfreno, who fielded a tough bunt and fired a fastball to third to cut down the lead runner. Later, Cameron Perkins lofted a sacrifice fly to center before Kevin Plawecki punched an RBI single that evened the game at three.
Despite the shift in momentum, Penn State immediately responded. Blake Lynd and Montesinos both beat out infield singles to put a pair of runners on base. One batter later, Steranka flared a single to right that allowed Lynd to speed around the bases and break the deadlock.
Holding a 3-2 advantage, starter-turned-reliever Heath Johnson was dominant on the mound. After helping the Lions escape the seventh, the senior flame-thrower faced the minimum in the eighth, aided by Penn State's second double play of the game. Later, he returned to the mound in the ninth and put Purdue down quietly to seal the victory for Penn State.
For his strong performance, Johnson (2-1) earned the win out of the bullpen. During his appearance, he held the Boilermakers hitless over 2.1 innings of work. Mascarello (1-4) took the loss after allowing one run on four hits in 2.2 innings on the mound.
Despite Penn State's efforts in the first game, the team's momentum did not carry over into the nightcap. During the contest, Purdue scored early and often as the squad ran away with the rubber-match to win the series.
After the Boilermakers opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first, Penn State immediately answered. Following a leadoff double by Deegan, Steranka ripped a one-out groundball to short, which immediately knotted the game at one.
Following another Purdue run in the second that broke the tie, the visitors exploded for six runs in the top of the third to grab a stranglehold on the game. Kevin Plawecki kicked things off with a two-run double to right. Later, Stephen Talbott added an RBI triple and David Blount plated a run with a single to right to help cap off the rally.
Staring at a seven-run deficit in the third, the Nittany Lions could not keep up with the hard-hitting Purdue attack. The visitors tossed two more on the board in the fourth, including another RBI by Plawecki, to secure a commanding 8-1 advantage.
Refusing to go down without a fight, Penn State matched that rally with a two-run surge of its own. In the bottom of the fifth, Lynd and Deegan both worked one-out walks. Steranka followed with a high fly ball to left that was misplayed for a two-base error and allowed both runners to scamper home.
Unfortunately, Purdue had an effective answer to that rally. The visitors tacked three on the board in the sixth and two more in the seventh to grab a double-digit lead at 15-3. Meanwhile, the Boilermaker bullpen held Penn State in check as the PU relievers posted zeroes in the sixth, seventh, and eighth.
With one last trip to the plate, the Lions fired their final run on the board in the bottom of the ninth. Once again, Deegan was at the heart of the rally as the PSU centerfielder legged out a triple down the rightfield line. Two batters later, Steranka chased him in with a single through the right side of the infield.
Despite the last-ditch effort, Penn State eventually bowed out as reliever Lance Breedlove shut the door for good with a strikeout to end the game. Joe Haase (4-1) earned the win after allowing just one earned run on three hits in 5.1 innings. Greg Welsh (1-1) took the loss after surrendering six earned in 2.1 innings on the hill.
Penn State will return to action on Wednesday when the squad hosts Maryland at 6:05 p.m.