Baseball Falls to Michigan in Series Opener; Remains Alive For Postseason Berth
May 20, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State baseball team sent the go-ahead run to the plate in the eighth and ninth innings, but fell short in a 6-3 setback to Michigan on Thursday night in the opening game of the final regular season series at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Juniors Ben Heath (Huntersville, N.C.) and Mario Eramo (Houston, Texas) both homered in the fourth inning, but the Nittany Lions (21-29, 8-14 Big Ten) were unable to cross the plate over the final five frames. Despite the loss, the Lions remain alive for a Big Ten Tournament berth heading into a must-win scenario on Friday at 5:35 p.m.
Heath's home run also marked his 100th career hit. It was the third time this season that a Nittany Lion hitter recorded his 100th career hit, with all of them leaving the yard. Sophomore Jordan Steranka's (Pittsburgh, Pa.) came against Kent State while senior Louie Picconi's (North Merrick, N.Y.) was a grand slam at Ohio State.
Steranka and redshirt freshman Elliot Searer (Lewistown, Pa.) each recorded a pair of hits while freshman Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.) and sophomore Sean Deegan (Readington, N.J.) also had one hit apiece.
After senior Mike Wanamaker (Upper Nyack, N.Y.) allowed four earned runs over the first five innings, the combination of junior Heath Johnson (Alamagordo, N.M.) and senior David Lutz (West Chester, Pa.) held the Wolverines (33-19, 13-9 Big Ten) scoreless the rest of the way. Lutz struck out a career-high five batters while allowing only three hits.
Penn State opened the game with a run in the bottom of the first. Searer led off the home half with a double down the left field line. After a Snyder groundout moved him to third, Steranka roped a single up the middle to score Searer and give the Lions a 1-0 lead heading into the second.
Michigan answered in the top of the second with an RBI triple from Nick Urban, which knotted the score at 1-1. The Wolverines then took the lead for the first time in the top of the third. Catcher Chris Berset tallied a sacrifice fly to set the scoreboard at 2-1 after three innings. The Wolverines added to their advantage with a two-run triple in the fourth to make it 4-1.
The Lions sliced into the lead with a pair of long balls in the bottom of the fourth to pull within one. Heath blasted a leadoff home run to center, his 19th of the season to make it 4-2. Two batters later, Eramo belted a homer to right-center to make it a 4-3 ballgame heading into the fifth.
However, the Wolverines came right back with a big sixth inning to push the lead back to three runs. Coley Crank notched a leadoff home run to extend the advantage to 5-3. A pair of costly Penn State errors led to Michigan's sixth run, which set the score at 6-3. The inning could have been much worse, but Lutz slammed the door with two pivotal outs to keep the score at 6-3 heading into the home half of the sixth.
The game went scoreless through the seventh and eighth innings, but the Nittany Lions looked as though they would carve into Michigan's lead after loading the bases with none out in the bottom of the eighth. After a Snyder walk to lead off the inning, Steranka roped a single down the left field line. Heath then walked to load the bases.
Nonetheless, Michigan reliever Tyler Burgoon managed to get out of the inning with a pivotal strikeout and an inning-ending double play. After Lutz pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, the Nittany Lions again loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth. But like the eighth, Burgoon slammed the door to preserve the victory for Michigan.
Despite the loss, Penn State remains alive in its quest for a Big Ten Tournament berth. The Lions and Wolverines will again meet on Friday in a pivotal contest for Penn State's postseason hopes. First pitch is slated for 5:35 p.m. at Medlar Field. Purchase your tickets today!
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