Hill, Jacobs Help Baseball Edge Michigan, 1-0
May 19, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - An RBI double by Bobby Jacobs in the fourth inning was all the Penn State baseball team needed as Steven Hill, Heath Johnson, and Greg Welsh combined to shut out Michigan, 1-0, to capture a critical edge-of-your-seat victory over the Wolverines during a Big Ten battle on a cloudy Thursday evening at the Wilpon Complex.
During an incredible duel between a pair of aces, Hill got the best of Michigan's Brandon Sinnery after tossing seven pristine innings while getting a little help from his bullpen and defense. With his performance, he extended his scoreless inning streak to 16 after firing a shutout against Minnesota last weekend.
The victory marked the first 1-0 win for Penn State (31-19, 11-11 Big Ten) since the squad blanked Northwestern by the same score on April 21, 2007. The win also helped the Nittany Lions continue their postseason push and moved the squad into a tie for the sixth and final playoff spot.
In the beginning of the game, Hill tossed zeros on the board with a little help from his defense. From his perch behind the plate, Jacobs gunned down a pair of runners before Joey DeBernardis made arguably the finest play of the season in the bottom of the third.
Following a leadoff double by John Lorenz, John DiLaura stepped to the plate with a chance to open the scoring. After failing to put down a sacrifice bunt, he decided to swing away and lofted a tailing pop fly into foul territory. Breaking on the ball immediately, DeBernardis tracked it down the line. Running out of time to make the catch on his feet, the junior first baseman went all-out and dove headfirst to make an unbelievable grab in his out-stretched glove.
Although the catch itself would have been impressive enough, DeBernardis was not quite finished. Following his splashdown on the rain-soaked field, he quickly regained his footing after noticing the runner on second had tagged. Making a great heads-up play, he turned and put his cannon on full display as the former pitcher hurled a rocket to third to put away Lorenze by a full stride.
With the pitching and defense doing its job, the Lion lineup came around in the top of the fourth. Jordan Steranka got things rolling with a deep double to left center. One batter later, Jacobs followed suit with his own two-base hit, which allowed Steranka to cruise around with the first and only run of the game.
Holding a 1-0 lead, Hill returned to the mound and continued to dominate. He sent the Wolverines down quickly in the bottom of the fourth, picked up a strikeout and double play in the fifth, and worked out of a tough jam in the sixth. Following back-to-back singles to start the inning, Hill settled in and struck out the next two before inducing a grounder to short to close out the frame.
After escaping a tough situation in the sixth, Hill had to perform the same trick in the seventh. Despite putting away the first two batters, he surrendered consecutive singles for the second straight inning. Once again, he escaped unscathed as Steranka made a sliding stop on a rocket towards the hole between short and third that helped put an end to the inning.
With their ace laboring a bit, the Nittany Lions called on Heath Johnson in the eighth. Battling the strike zone, the senior faced a difficult jam of his own. Following a pair of walks and a hit batsman, Michigan had the bases packed with two outs. With no margin for error, Johnson fired a 2-1 fastball to John Lorenz, who made solid contact but sent the ball straight to Sean Deegan in center for the final out of the frame.
One inning later, after the Wolverine pitching staff worked its fifth straight scoreless frame, Johnson came back out on the mound in the ninth. After he got the leadoff batter to chase some high heat, he issued another free pass, which forced Penn State to call on reliever Greg Welsh to finish the job.
After his first pitch just missed the strike zone, the freshman southpaw got exactly what Penn State needed. With one pitch, Welsh got two outs as he induced a roller to short, which Elliot Searer quickly turned into a game-ending 6-3 double play.
For his efforts, Welsh picked up his first career save. Meanwhile, Hill (6-4) earned the victory after striking out five over seven scoreless innings. Sinnery (2-5) was the hard-luck loser as he struck out seven and allowed just one run on four hits over eight solid innings on the mound.
The two teams will return to the diamond tomorrow for a 6:05 p.m. showdown.