Deegan, Lynd Help Penn State Upend Iowa, 3-2
May 7, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Penn State baseball team capitalized on a clutch two-run home run by Sean Deegan and some timely strikeouts from its pitching staff as the Nittany Lions evened its three-game series with Iowa following a 3-2 victory over the Hawkeyes on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Duane Banks Field.
For the second straight day, Deegan led the Lion assault as the junior centerfielder posted two hits, including a two-run bomb in the fourth. Blake Lynd also shined for Penn State (26-17, 8-9 Big Ten) as the senior speedster went 3-for-3 with a walk and run scored. He also affirmed his reputation as one of the peskiest base runners in the conference after swiping two bases in two attempts.
On the mound, John Walter and Heath Johnson combined for 12 strikeouts during the contest. Walter sent down seven while scattering three hits over 6.2 innings of work, while Johnson added five more over the final 2.1 frames.
The victory snapped Penn State's four-game skid and kept the squad in the middle of the Big Ten standings, while Iowa (17-27, 6-11) fell back a bit in its bid for a postseason berth.
After Walter held the Hawkeyes real quiet in the first inning with three quick strikeouts, his offense gave him an early lead in the top of the second. Luis Montesinos drilled a leadoff double to left before Lynd chased him in with a base hit back up the middle.
Trailing for the third time during the series, Iowa continued its quick responses as the Hawkeyes immediately knotted the game in the bottom of the inning. After the squad loaded the bases with just one out, Kyle Haen rolled a grounder to second, which allowed the tying run to come home.
In the top of the fourth, Penn State shot back and broke the deadlock with a tremendous blast. Following a one-out double by Lynd, Deegan went the opposite way with a 1-1 fastball. Although the wind helped the ball carry back a bit, it eventually cleared the fence easily and left a big brown divot after crashing down on the hill behind the wall.
With the lead in hand, Walter continued to shut out the Hawkeye offense in the middle innings. After working out of a bases-loaded jam in the third, he posted one strikeout in both the fourth and fifth before sending a pair down on strikes in the sixth.
Unfortunately, after escaping some tight spots earlier in the game, the Lions were unable to avoid damage in the seventh. The inning started well for Penn State as Walter retired the first two batters in order, highlighted by an exceptional play from Montesinos as the agile second baseman made a diving grab on a rocket up the middle.
After that, Iowa began to piece together a rally. A walk and back-to-back singles chased in the Hawkeyes' second run of the game and pulled the hosts within one. Later, another walk loaded the bases for Iowa and put the loyal Penn State contingent on pins and needles.
Despite the tense situation, Johnson remained calm on the mound after being called in from the bullpen. After jumping ahead of Zach McCool with two quick strikes, he induced a shallow pop up just behind the infield that Montesinos corralled to end the threat.
After that, Johnson was simply dominant on the hill. Although he allowed a single to start the eighth and a leadoff walk in the ninth, he continued to bear down. He struck out the final two Hawkeyes in the eighth before a sensational effort in the ninth. Following the leadoff walk, he painted the corners of the plate with an electric fastball while snapping off a tremendous curve. After getting the second batter of the inning to chase a high hard one, he hit the black with two perfect fastballs to send the final two Hawkeyes down looking.
That performance continued to prove Johnson's worth at the backend of the PSU bullpen. In seven relief appearances, he has yet to allow an earned run over 8.2 innings while picking up a win and two saves.
Walter (6-3) earned the victory for his efforts and improved to 4-0 in conference action. Matt Dermody (4-5) suffered the loss after allowing three runs on eight hits in six innings of work.
In addition to strong pitching and timely hitting, Penn State also benefited from outstanding defense. Following a cavalcade of miscues in the first game of the series, the Lions played well throughout the day. Showing some mental toughness, the squad kept its Friday struggles from bubbling over and affecting Saturday's performance. PSU played pristine defense and even made some difficult catches on windswept balls to the outfield.
After a strong effort on the mound by the Lions in the second game of the series, the squad will look for a matching performance tomorrow as the team hands the ball to southpaw Mike Franklin hoping for some Sunday silence in the rubber-match beginning at 1 p.m. ET.