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May 13, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In just a shade under two hours, Steven Hill carved up the Minnesota batting order and tossed his second career nine-inning shutout as the sophomore ace fired a four-hitter while leading the Penn State baseball team to a 7-0 victory during a critical Big Ten battle on a hazy Friday evening at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Fittingly, on Friday the 13th, Hill was scary good on the mound as the imposing right-hander mowed down the Gophers in a dominating performance. Needing just 95 pitches, including 64 strikes, he struck out six and never allowed a runner past second base during his fourth complete game effort of the season.
Needing little run support, Hill received all the offense he would need in the second as Penn State (29-18, 9-10 Big Ten) broke the game open with a four-run surge. Ryan Clark landed the key blow during the game, smoking a three-run triple to highlight the early rally. Sean Deegan and Bobby Jacobs also shined offensively, posting a pair of hits to help the squad upend Minnesota (19-19, 11-8).
After Hill retired the side in order in the first and benefited from a quick double play in the second, his offense found its stride early with an impressive showing in the bottom of the inning. Jacobs kicked things off with a one-out single to center before Luis Montesinos and Mario Eramo lined back-to-back base hits to right, which loaded the bases for Clark.
Although the right-handed slugger fell behind in the count, he unloaded on a 1-2 fastball and blasted a rocket over the centerfielder's head for a bases-clearing, three-run triple. Two batters later, Blake Lynd continued the rally as the senior speedster punched a dribbler to second and busted down the line to beat out an infield single, which brought home Clark for the fourth run of the inning.
Holding a quick 4-0 lead, Penn State wanted a larger cushion and immediately fired a two-spot on the board in the bottom of the third. Following back-to-back singles by Deegan and Joey DeBernardis to open the inning, both runners moved up on a ground out to put a pair in scoring position with just one down.
After scoring the first run of the game, Jacobs drove in the fifth tally with a sharply hit grounder to short, which allowed Deegan to scamper home. Montesinos followed with his own roller back up the middle that was momentarily mishandled by the shortstop, allowing DeBernardis to come home safely with the sixth run of the game.
With the offense doing its job, Hill continued to do his. Between the second and the sixth, the Lion ace retired 14 straight Gophers, highlighted by four strikeouts. During that stretch, only two balls left the infield as Hill induced five ground balls and a pair of infield pops to cruise through the Minnesota lineup.
Still grasping to a six-run lead, Penn State fired one more insurance run on the board in the bottom of the sixth to close out the scoring. After Elliot Searer reached on a two-out miscue, Lynd was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. One batter later, Deegan blasted a double down the rightfield line, which allowed Searer to score easily from second.
Now leading by seven, Hill returned to the mound and closed out the game in style. During the final few innings, he posted a pair of strikeouts and benefited from some outstanding defense. Jordan Steranka led the way as the third baseman made a sliding backhand stop on a rocket just inside the third base line. After regaining his footing, he fired a laser across the diamond to cut down Kyle Geason by a stride.
Later, the defense flipped its second double play of the game in the eighth before Hill ran right through Minnesota in the ninth to close out the 7-0 victory. For his efforts, Hill improved to 5-4 while recording his 10th quality start of the season. On the other side, Minnesota ace TJ Oakes (5-5) took the loss after allowing seven runs, but only five earned, in 5.2 innings on the hill.
In all, eight Nittany Lions recorded a hit in the game, while seven scored a run. Deegan extended his hitting streak to eight straight games with his two-hit performance, while Montesinos picked up a single after having his 13-game roll snapped earlier in the week.
The two teams will return to the diamond tomorrow at 2:05 p.m. to continue the three-game series.