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May 14, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Mario Eramo gave the Penn State baseball team an early lead with a two-run blast in the bottom of the second, but Minnesota slowly chipped away and eventually overcame its deficit in the top of the seventh to even the series with a 3-2 victory on a cloudy Saturday afternoon at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Joey DeBernardis also tallied three hits for Penn State (29-19, 9-11 Big Ten), including his league-leading 22nd double of the season, while Elliot Searer posted a pair of hits for the Lions. Despite those efforts, Minnesota (20-19, 12-8) battled back following its early setback and pulled out the one-run victory.
Although Penn State was quieted in the first inning despite putting runners on the corners with just one out, Eramo quickly lit up the scoreboard in the second. After Luis Montesinos was plunked to start the inning, Penn State's dangerous DH dug in at the plate. On a 1-2 offering, he turned on an inside pitch and jerked a blast into the seats atop the wall in rightfield.
Trailing by two, Minnesota cut its deficit in half following an odd series of events in the top of the third. PSU starter John Walter walked the leadoff batter but quickly picked him off at first. Up next, Matt Puhl lifted a routine fly ball to right, but it got lost in the cloudy sky and dropped safely for a weather-aided double. Three batters later, Andy Henkemeyer fired his own two-base knock to right, which chased in Puhl and pulled the visitors within one.
After that, both pitchers settled in on the mound. Despite finding himself in uncomfortable situations, Phil Isaksson continued to work out of jams for Minnesota. Penn State put its first two runners on in the third, picked up a double from DeBernardis in the fifth, and had two more reach in the sixth, but Isaksson and reliever Tom Windle came away unscathed each time to keep the Lions from stretching their lead.
Meanwhile, Walter tossed zeros on the board in the fourth and fifth for PSU before Minnesota fought back with time running out. Following a walk and a double in the sixth, the Gophers had a pair in scoring position. Later, after Penn State got the second out of the inning, Kyle Geason poked a dribbler to the right side of the mound, which the Lions could not corral, allowing the tying run to come around.
Even at two, Minnesota quickly continued its comeback in the top of the seventh. Following a leadoff single by Puhl, the Gopher second baseman moved up on a sacrifice bunt before cruising to third on a passed ball. Just 90-feet from home, he came charging to the plate on an RBI single by AJ Pettersen, which gave the visitors their first lead of the weekend.
Staring at a deficit, Penn State went down in order in the seventh before piecing together a great chance to score in the eighth. Bobby Jacobs worked a four-pitch walk to start the inning before Zach Ell came in to pinch run. Looking to move Ell into scoring position, Montesinos laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, which Windle fielded cleanly but threw down the rightfield line allowing Ell to scoot to third and Montesinos to settle in at second.
With two runners in scoring position and no one down, Penn State looked to be in prime position to answer Minnesota's late rallies. Unfortunately, the Gophers had other plans. Following an infield pop that kept the runners at bay, the visitors called on closer Scott Matyas, who quickly ended the threat. Firing strikes, he sent the next two batters down swinging to keep the 3-2 lead.
One inning later, he returned to the hill and sent the Lions down in order to close out the contest and pick up his 10th save of the season. Windle (5-2) earned the win for the Gophers after firing 2.2 innings of scoreless relief, while Greg Welsh (2-3) took the loss despite allowing just one unearned run in 2.1 innings of work.
The two teams will wrap up their three-game series tomorrow with a showdown at noon. Prior to the game, Penn State will hold its annual Senior Day festivities. All of the action will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.