Nittany Lions Drop 5-4 Decision to Michigan State
April 30, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - In a near mirror image of the series opener on Friday, the Penn State baseball team fought hard in the middle innings to overcome an early deficit, but Michigan State landed the final blow as the Spartans received a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth to cap off a 5-4 victory on a cloudy Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium.
During the contest, Penn State (25-15, 7-7 Big Ten) momentarily held leads in the fifth and eighth, but Michigan State (26-13, 9-5) responded immediately both times to pull out the victory. With the win, the Spartans hold onto a share of the Big Ten lead, while the Lions fall back into a crowded field just two games behind the leaders.
Sean Deegan knocked in a pair of runs for PSU, while Michael Glantz went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored. John Walter also worked hard on the mound, allowing four runs while striking out five over seven innings.
With the game knotted at three entering the top of the eighth, Penn State worked quickly to break the deadlock. Joey DeBernardis got the rally going with a base knock to right. Jordan Steranka came through next as he unloaded on a pitch. Getting exactly what he was looking for, the junior third baseman blasted a shot to right center. After bouncing on the track, the ball rolled around on the hill, which allowed Steranka to leg out an RBI triple.
Back in front, Penn State struggled to hold its lead. In the bottom of the inning, Michigan State responded. A pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. In a jam, reliever Geoff Boylston induced a sacrifice fly to right, which knotted the game at four. Later, after a fielder's choice put runners on the corners with two outs, Ryan Clark made a phenomenal play in right to keep the game tied.
After momentarily breaking back on a high pop fly, Clark found the ball, reversed direction, and came sprinting back towards the infield. Unable to keep his feet and still make the catch, the rightfielder sprawled out and dove forward. Completely out-stretched, he came crashing down just as he snow-coned the ball at the very tip of his glove to end the inning and keep the score knotted at four.
Unfortunately, Penn State went down in order in the top of the ninth before MSU went back to work in the bottom of the inning. Following a leadoff single and a pair of intentional walks, the Spartans had the bases loaded with only one down.
Looking to lift the ball into the outfield, Tony Wieber did exactly that as he lofted a fly to center. Although Deegan played it well and made the catch with his momentum heading towards the plate, Jeff Holm was able to tag up and score ahead of the throw to give the hosts their second consecutive walk-off 5-4 victory.
David Garner (4-4) picked up the win after allowing one run on two hits in two innings of work. Boylston (2-1) took the loss for Penn State.
Similar to Friday's contest, the game got off to a unique start as Michigan State grabbed an early lead, but Penn State's defense limited the damage. In the bottom of the first, the Spartans loaded the bases with only one down. Looking to break the game open early, Joel Fisher pumped a base hit to right center, which chased in one run.
On the play, the Spartans tried to plate another run as they waved around Holm from second. Refusing to let the squad score a cheap run, Clark fielded the ball on a hop and fired to Luis Montesinos, who cut the throw just behind second. With a quick pivot, he showed off his strong right arm and unleashed a perfect throw to the plate. As he did twice on Friday, Bobby Jacobs took the throw at home, set up a road block, and slapped down the tag to hold the Spartans to just one run.
That play proved crucial as Penn State battled back to knot the game at one in the top of the third. Glantz kicked off the inning by smoking a double down the leftfield line. In a great position to even the score, the Nittany Lions took advantage as Blake Lynd laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt before Deegan launched a high fly to right center, which allowed Glantz to cruise home with the tying run.
After evening the game with his sacrifice fly in the third, Deegan broke the deadlock in the fifth. With two down, Lynd got things rolling after smacking a line drive single to left. Despite the short porch in right, lefty Deegan made a great decision and adjusted perfectly on a 1-1 pitch as he punched an opposite field double off the fence that allowed Lynd to score easily from first.
With their first lead of the series at 2-1, the Nittany Lions could not hold on for long as the Spartans immediately responded in the bottom of the fifth. A one-out walk came back to haunt PSU as Ryan Jones advanced and scored on back-to-back singles. Later, following a key strikeout, Jared Hook fired a clutch two-out RBI single to center that gave the hosts a 3-2 lead.
As the two teams continued to trade blows, Penn State landed a counterpunch in the top of the seventh. Once again, a free pass played a key role as Montesinos led off with a walk. Clark came through next after smacking a single to left. One batter later, Glantz smoked an RBI single down the third base line, which chased home Montesinos.
With the game knotted at three, the Nittany Lions kept the momentum. After escaping some jams earlier in the contest, Walter grew stronger on the mound. In the seventh, he retired the Spartans in order for the second straight inning, highlighted by a pair of strikeouts.
Later, Steranka's RBI triple in the eighth gave PSU its second lead of the game, but Michigan State never flinched. After recording three consecutive outs in the infield, which left Steranka stranded at third, the Spartans tallied a run in both the eighth and ninth to pull out the win.
The two teams will wrap up their Big Ten series on Sunday at 1 p.m.