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April 23, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After dropping the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, 5-1, the Penn State baseball team rebounded in fine fashion as the Nittany Lions took the nightcap, 5-2, guided by another strong start from John Walter on a sunny afternoon at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Walter allowed just one earned run while striking out five over eight excellent innings on the hill. His efforts were backed by Sean Deegan and Luis Montesinos, who both roped three hits during the twin bill. In a performance befitting Penn State's second annual Wounded Warrior Day, Bobby Jacobs also reached base safely three times and knocked in a run during his first appearance following a frightening injury at Northwestern two weeks ago.
With the split, Penn State improved to 23-13 on the year, including 6-5 in the Big Ten. With a month remaining in the season, the Nittany Lions have now eclipsed their win total from the 2010 campaign.
After dropping the first end of the doubleheader, Penn State wasted little time responding in the nightcap. Although Ohio State (16-17, 6-5 Big Ten) opened the scoring with an unearned run in the top of the first, a new batting order paid immediate dividends for the Lions. At the top of the lineup for the first time in 2011, Blake Lynd led things off with a single up the middle.
Following back-to-back hits by Deegan and Joey DeBernardis which loaded the bases, Jordan Steranka ripped a shot to first, which chased in Lynd before an OSU throwing error allowed Deegan to come home as well. Jacobs came through next as the senior roped an RBI single to right center to give the squad a 3-1 lead.
After striking out a pair in the first, Walter continued to throw strikes as the imposing right-hander used just six pitches to retire the Buckeyes in order in the second. Meanwhile, the offense continued to support his efforts with two more runs in the bottom of the frame.
Once again, Lynd was at the heart of the rally as the senior speedster drew a one-out walk, moved to second on a wild pitch, and swiped third for his 10th steal of the season. On the play, an errant throw by the catcher allowed Lynd to scamper home with the first run of the inning.
Later, another walk came back to haunt Ohio State as Deegan drew a free pass, stole second, and scored on a single by Steranka.
Clutching a quick 5-1 lead after only two innings of play, Walter never let the Buckeyes find their rhythm. Although Ohio State continued to put runners on base, Walter came through in tough situations. He posted key strikeouts in the fourth and fifth to escape jams before a two-out single by Brian DeLucia in the sixth pulled the visitors within three at 5-2.
Despite the minor surge, Walter settled right back in. He retired the next five consecutive batters before escaping an eighth-inning rally unscathed after inducing a pop fly to center. After that, he handed the ball off to Heath Johnson, who slammed the door shut in the ninth.
Making his third relief appearance of the season, and his second of the day, Johnson cruised through the ninth. Montesinos also helped quiet the Buckeyes after making an incredible play to start the inning. Tim Wetzel pumped a roller up the middle that seemed destined for center. With a great read on the ball, Montesinos snagged it in a full sprint with his back towards first. After spinning around while falling towards center, he fired off his back leg and cut down the runner by a stride.
Following the highlight reel gem, Johnson needed very little help after that. After a routine groundout to third, he sent the final batter down flailing to pick up his first save of the season.
Walter (5-3) earned the victory for his performance on the mound. He has now gone at least five innings and surrendered fewer than three runs in each of his last six appearances. Fittingly, Penn State is now 6-0 during those starts.
Walter's effort highlighted an afternoon of strong pitching by both teams. The opener served as a nice platform for aces Steven Hill and Drew Rucinski. Entering the game tied for the league lead with matching 2.38 ERAs, the two standouts did not disappoint. In the early going, Hill got the better of the duel as the sophomore retired the side in order in the first, sent a batter down swinging in the second, and kept it rolling in the third.
While their ace did his job, the Nittany Lion offense tried to figure out Rucinski. Although PSU put a pair in scoring position in the first and picked up a leadoff single in the second, the squad came up empty-handed before a quick surge in the third. Deegan got things rolling after firing a double down the rightfield line. Montesinos came through next after rocketing an RBI single back up the middle that gave the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
Ohio State tried to respond with a two-out rally in the top of the fourth after putting runners on second and third, but Hill induced a fly ball to left that ended the threat. One inning later, the Buckeyes moved a pair into scoring position again. Hill looked ready to work out of the jam after sending the next batter down swinging for the second out, but Josh Dezse made solid contact on a tough 2-2 pitch for a two-run single that gave the visitors a 2-1 edge.
With their first lead of the game, the Buckeyes had no interest in relinquishing it. After allowing just one run during his early work, Rucinski was dominant over the middle innings. Between the fourth and seventh, he retired 12 straight batters before giving way to the bullpen. During that stretch, Ohio State tacked another run on the board on an RBI single by Ryan Cypret before breaking the game open in the eighth.
Holding a two-run lead, the Buckeyes added a pair of insurance runs against the Penn State bullpen in the eighth. Following a one-out walk and a double by Greg Soloman, David Corna scored on a Lion miscue before Tyler Engle poked an RBI single to right.
With a relatively comfortable lead, the OSU bullpen took it from there. Andrew Armstrong struck out a pair in the eighth before Josh Dezse worked around a one-out walk by Michael Glantz to close out the 5-1 victory.
Rucinski (4-1) earned the win for his efforts after allowing just one run on five hits in seven innings of work. Hill (4-3) took the loss after surrendering three runs over six frames.
The two teams will conclude their three-game series tomorrow at 1:05 p.m.