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May 10, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Evan Dixon and Greg Welsh combined to allow just one run on five hits while Jordan Steranka clubbed a key two-run triple in the fourth as the Penn State baseball team topped Niagara, 4-1, on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Welsh fired five innings of relief and allowed only one hit while earning his second career victory for Penn State (27-18). Steranka supported him on the offensive end, roping two hits including his fifth triple of the season, which served as the cornerstone of the team's three-run rally in the fourth. Sean Deegan also clubbed a home run for the third consecutive game and tied Jeff Holm for the Big Ten lead with nine bombs this season.
After Niagara (7-38) scraped together a run in the top of the third following a leadoff double by Wynton Bernard, Penn State quickly took control of the game. Before the offense came to life in the bottom of the fourth, Steranka provided the defensive highlight in the top of the inning to get the ball rolling.
Following a one-out single by John Wilson, Brian Deering ripped a rocket to third. With just a split second to react, Steranka fired his glove out and made a spectacular windmill catch on a tough bounce. Instinctively, he turned and threw a strike to second before Luis Montesinos made a quick relay throw to complete the 5-4-3 double play.
Fittingly, after his defensive gem, Steranka showed off his greatest skill in the bottom of the fourth. After Deegan worked a walk and Joey DeBernardis was hit by a pitch, Steranka yanked a 1-0 offering into right center, which he easily stretched into a two-run triple. Later, Bobby Jacobs tacked on an insurance run after lofting a sacrifice fly to left for a 3-1 lead.
With a little breathing room, Welsh took over on the hill and cruised for the last five innings. He retired the first seven batters he faced before surrendering a one-out triple in the seventh. Unfazed, he went right back to work and induced a shallow pop to left before getting a groundball to second, which ended the Niagara threat.
After the freshman southpaw worked his third 1-2-3 inning of the game in the top of the eighth, Deegan dropped a bomb to right center in the bottom half of the frame. On the first pitch of the bat, he leveled a blast to the power alley in right for his fourth home run in the last five games.
Holding a three-run lead, Welsh returned to the mound and closed out the contest in style. For the fourth time, he sent the Purple Eagles down in order to secure the victory. The five-inning relief appearance marked his longest of the season.
Niagara's Joel Klock (0-9) took the loss despite firing his second complete game of the year. Over his eight innings on the hill, he scattered six hits while striking out a pair. He was supported on the offensive end by John Wilson, who tallied a pair of hits for Niagara.
Penn State will return to action tomorrow when the squad heads to Pittsburgh for a 6 p.m. showdown with the Panthers.