Franklin Shines But Baseball Falls to Iowa, 2-1, in Extras
May 8, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Despite a sensational performance from southpaw Mike Franklin, the Nittany Lions could not put together enough runs to support their starting pitcher as the Penn State baseball team was sent packing by a walk-off single from Taylor Zeutenhorst in the bottom of the 10th inning, which lifted Iowa to a 2-1 victory on a warm Sunday afternoon at Duane Banks Field.
Franklin had his finest outing of the season, allowing just one run on four hits in eight innings of work. Unfortunately, his offense was held in check by Iowa's Patrick Lala, who surrendered a solo home run to Sean Deegan but teamed with a pair of relievers to keep the Nittany Lions off the board during the rest of the game.
With the setback, Penn State (26-18, 8-10 Big Ten) drops into a tie for sixth-place in the conference standings. On the other hand, Iowa (18-27, 7-11) inches closer to a playoff berth after capturing its first Big Ten series of the season.
After Franklin cruised through the first seven frames while clutching a one-run lead, the Hawkeyes struck in the bottom of the eighth. Playing perfect small-ball, Trevor Willis led off with an infield single following an outstanding drag bunt to the right side. One batter later, Zach McCool moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice before a fly ball to center allowed him to scamper over to third.
Just 90-feet from the plate, Willis completed the circuit after Zeutenhorst poked an RBI single back up the middle that knotted the game at one.
With new life, Iowa sent down the Lions in order in the top of the ninth before reliever Neal Herring followed with a pristine 1-2-3 inning of his own in the bottom of the inning to send the game to extras. Keeping the momentum, the Hawkeyes faced the minimum again in Penn State's half of the 10th, highlighted by a perfectly timed pitch-out, which eliminated Deegan on the base paths after he poked a one-out single to right.
Refusing to go any further, Iowa followed the same script that worked in the eighth to put the game away. After Kurt Lee poked an infield single to short, Willis moved him over with a bunt. Following a shallow single to right and an intentional walk, the Hawkeyes had the bases loaded with just one out.
Needing a miracle to escape the jam, Penn State called upon star closer Heath Johnson. Faced with an improbable task, he fired a strike to Zeutenhorst and induced a grounder, but the Hawkeye outfielder found an open space and punched the ball back up the middle to seal the 2-1 victory.
Tim Fangman (1-1) earned the win after firing three scoreless innings of relief for Iowa. Herring (1-1) took the loss for Penn State after allowing one run on two hits in 1.1 innings of work.
Although Franklin and Lala earned no-decisions for their efforts on the mound early in the game, the two standouts looked sharp right out of the gate. Franklin was nearly perfect through four, allowing just a simple two-out walk in the second. On the other hand, Lala had to escape a few jams but more than held his own.
In the first, Deegan drew a one-out walk and quickly swiped second, but he was left stranded following a strikeout and fly ball to center. One inning later, Lala benefited from an unusual play to escape another tense situation.
Following a leadoff double by Bobby Jacobs, Michael Glantz eventually worked a two-out walk to put a pair on. Looking to light up the scoreboard, Elliot Searer pumped a single through the middle of the infield that sent Jacobs chugging around third. After fielding the ball cleanly, Willis came up throwing. Realizing he had no shot at Jacobs, the Hawkeye centerfielder fired a strike to the shortstop. With a quick tag, he nailed Glantz, who was retreating back to second, before Jacobs could reach the plate.
After the hard-luck setback in the second, Penn State finally landed the first blow in the top of the third. On a fastball that cut over the inner-half of the plate, Deegan turned on the pitch and drilled it to right. Despite firing the blast straight into the teeth of the driving wind, he had enough muscle to clock the shot into the line of pine trees near the road behind the fence for his team-leading eighth home run of the year.
With the lead, Franklin continued to mow down the Hawkeyes before the hosts pieced together their first real threat in the fifth. After Chett Zeise broke up Franklin's no-hit bid with a one-out single, he advanced to third on a Nittany Lion miscue, which put runners on the corners with just one down.
An excellent bunting team, Iowa asked Kyle Haen to put down a safety squeeze. Playing the ball like a pro, Franklin came charging off the mound and grabbed the dribbler before looking Zeise back to third. After getting the out at first, he capped off the inning with his fourth strikeout of the game.
Following Iowa's first real threat, the Nittany Lions had a pair of opportunities to increase their lead in the seventh and eighth. During the first surge, Penn State had something going after Luis Montesinos extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a leadoff single. Later, the Lion second baseman moved into scoring position with his third steal of the season, but Lala quickly settled in and retired the final three batters to end the frame.
One inning later, PSU had the makings of another rally after Deegan and Joey DeBernardis fired back-to-back singles to start the eighth. Despite the scoring opportunity, Penn State came away empty-handed after Fangman induced three straight pop ups to halt the surge.
Unfortunately, that setback proved costly as Iowa quickly tacked on its first run of the game in the bottom of the frame before capping off the series with a walk-off single in extra innings.
Deegan finished the day with three hits to wrap up a sensational weekend at the plate for the junior centerfielder. During the three games, he went 7-for-13 with two home runs. He also scored four times, knocked in three, and stole a base.
Jacobs also tallied a pair of hits for Penn State. Since suffering the facial injury against Northwestern, the senior catcher is hitting .324 with 11 hits, six RBI, and three runs scored. He has also gunned down three attempted base stealers from his perch behind the plate.
The Nittany Lions will look to get back on track as the squad returns to Happy Valley for a non-conference bout with Niagara on Tuesday at 3:35 p.m.