Penn State Holds Off Villanova in 5-4 Victory
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa.; May 13, 2014 - The Penn State Nittany Lions (18-29, 5-15 Big Ten) pulled out a hard-fought 5-4 win over Villanova (15-32, 4-11 Big East) in the team’s final midweek, non-conference game of the season. The Blue and White opened up a 5-1 lead through six innings and then staved off a late Villanova rally to secure the one-run win.
Junior starting pitcher Geoff Boylston (West Chester, Pa.) posted one of his best outings of his career against Villanova, matching his career-best in innings pitched by going 5.2 innings. Boylston allowed just one run on five hits and punched out four opposing hitters en route to his second win of the season to improve his record to 2-1.
Penn State received its best offensive day at the dish in nearly a month, reaching double digits in hits with 11 for the first time since the series finale versus Illinois on April 20. Three Nittany Lions had two hits on the afternoon, as Jim Haley (Upper Darby, Pa.), Aaron Novak (Ambler, Pa.) and Alex Malinsky (Apex, North Carolina) each recorded multi-hit games.
Malinsky and Greg Guers (Langhorne, Pa.) did much of the damage offensively for the Nittany Lions, as each player drove in two runs apiece. Penn State had five different players cross home plate in Tuesday’s victory.
Both starting pitchers started the game by dominating the first three innings of play, as Penn State and Villanova combined to record just one hit.
The Nittany Lion offense came alive in the top of the fourth and jumped out to a 3-0 lead off four hits and one Wildcat error. Haley led off the inning with a single up the middle and then came around to score off a triple to the right field wall from Guers, which was his third of the season. Penn State doubled their lead off a Villanova miscue, as J.J. White (Landsowne, Virginia) hit a grounder to second to plate Guers and reached on the error. Later in the inning, Alex Malinsky produced a two-out single up the middle to score Aaron Novak for Penn State’s third run of the inning.
The Blue and White tacked on another run in the fifth frame to increase its lead to four runs. Taylor Skerpon (Sayre, Pa.) led off the inning with a double to left field and then advanced to third on a single through the left side from Haley, his second hit of the day. Guers drove in Skerpon for his second RBI of the game off a sacrifice fly to center field, making the score 4-0.
The Wildcats clawed back and got a run back in the bottom of the fifth, although it could have been much worse for the Nittany Lions. Villanova loaded the bases with no outs to start the inning and threatened to put together a big inning. Boylston then got the Wildcats’ Zander Retamar to chop a ball to Skerpon at second to start a much needed double play to minimize the damage, while Villanova’s first run came in to score on the play. Boylston then retired the next batter to end the threat and keep the score at 4-1.
Penn State immediately answered with a run of its own in the top of the sixth to restore its four-run lead. The Nittany Lions strung together back-to-back doubles courtesy of Ryky Smith (York, Pa.) and Malinsky to add to their lead and make the score 5-1.
The Nittany Lions escaped a jam in the bottom of the sixth, as the hosts loaded the bases with two outs in the inning. Head Coach Rob Cooper then called reliever Ryan Harper (Texas City, Texas) into the game and the junior delivered, getting Villanova’s Adam Goss to pop out to Haley at shortstop to hold the Wildcats scoreless in the inning.
Neither team scored in the seventh inning and then Villanova mounted a comeback in the bottom of the eighth to cut Penn State’s lead to just one run at 5-4. The Wildcats loaded the bases with no outs in the frame to set the table for their big inning. After recording an out, Villanova’s Adam Goss singled through the right side to trim the lead to 5-2. The hosts then scored two more times off a bases loaded walk and fielder’s choice to make it a one-run affair. Jack Anderson (Evanston, Illinois) then got a big strikeout to end the eighth and allow Penn State to keep its lead heading into the ninth.
The Nittany Lions were kept off the scoreboard in the top of the ninth, setting the stage for a dramatic finish in the bottom of the frame. Anderson retired the first two Wildcat batters and got the third hitter of the inning to ground into what appeared to be a routine groundout to Haley at shortstop. At the last second the ball took an odd bounce over Haley’s shoulder for a two-out single. The next Villanova batter got hit on a 3-2 pitch to put the winning run on base. Anderson kept his composure and got the next hitter to groundout to Ryan Richter (Ambler, Pa.) at third to secure the 5-4 victory.
The Blue and White return to Happy Valley to host Michigan State in the regular season finale for a three-game series. The opening game is scheduled for Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m.