Penn State Drops a Tough 5-4 Decision to Michigan in 11 Innings
May 20, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Despite a superb relief effort by Neal Herring and a pair of comebacks by the Penn State baseball team, Michigan capitalized on a game-winning single by John Lorenz in the bottom of the 11th to capture a 5-4 victory over the Nittany Lions during an extra-inning marathon at the Wilpon Complex on a warm Friday evening.
Following Penn State's thrilling 1-0 victory on Thursday, the two teams somehow found a way to make Friday's sequel even more nerve-wracking. Each team held a lead and the Nittany Lions battled back from a pair of deficits, but Michigan (17-36, 7-15 Big Ten) landed the final blow to pull out the win.
The loss drops Penn State (31-20, 11-12) into a tie for the sixth and final playoff spot heading into the last day of action. Currently, the Lions are even with Indiana and sit one game behind Ohio State. All three teams are in the hunt for the final two spots in next week's Big Ten Tournament.
After the Nittany Lions knotted the game at four with a two-run rally in the top of the eighth, Herring and Michigan's bullpen took over the game. Although the Wolverines kept putting runners on base, Herring worked out of trouble with strikeouts in the eighth and ninth before retiring the side in order in the 10th.
Similarly, Tyler Mills and Ben Ballantine tossed zeros on the board for Michigan as the two relievers combined to allow just one runner over the final three innings of play. Despite the dominant pitching late in the game, the Wolverines finally broke the deadlock in the 11th.
Although Herring retired the first batter of the inning, Michael O'Neill collected his fourth hit of the game with a one-out single to left. Later, following a Penn State miscue and a walk, the hosts had the bases loaded with Lorenz at the plate. After getting ahead in the count, he turned on a pitch and laced a line drive just out of the reach of Luis Montesinos for the game-winning base hit.
Herring (1-2) suffered the loss but deserved a much better fate as the reliever fired 5.1 innings out of the bullpen and allowed just three hits and one run while striking out a pair. Ballantine (3-1) earned the victory after two pristine innings of relief.
Sean Deegan led Penn State with two hits, including his 11th home run of the season in the fifth inning. Elliot Searer also tallied a pair of knocks for the Lions, while Jordan Steranka chased in a run.
For the Wolverines, O'Neill finished the game 4-for-6 with three runs scored. The freshman speedster also set a new Michigan single-season record with 30 stolen bases after swiping a pair against the Lions. Coley Crank also had three hits, while Brett Winger knocked in a pair.
In the first few innings, Penn State appeared to be snakebit as the squad put a pair on in the first and third but came away empty-handed both times. During the first rally, Joey DeBernardis roped a two-out double and Steranka drew a walk, but a long drive by Bobby Jacobs was snagged in left center. Two innings later, Searer notched a leadoff single and Blake Lynd reached on a Michigan miscue, but the Wolverines retired the next three straight to end the threat.
With his offense scuffling, Penn State starter John Walter put Michigan away in the first and second but hit a rough spot in the third. During the inning, O'Neill punched a one-out single through the right side and advanced to second after a rocket back up the middle caught Walter on his left arm and eventually turned into a unique 1-5-3 putout.
Although Walter was able to remain in the game, Crank touched him up with an RBI single through the left side of the infield that plated O'Neill and gave the hosts their first lead of the series.
Staring at a 1-0 deficit, Penn State answered two innings later. After Michigan retired the first two Lions in the fifth, Lynd reached on an error before Deegan dug in at the plate. After falling behind in the count, he got what he was looking for and turned on an 0-1 offering. With quick hands and tremendous power, he yanked a line drive blast to right center, which cleared the fence and nearly put a dent in the side of the indoor track facility behind the wall.
After the two-run shot gave Penn State its first lead of the game, Michigan wasted little time responding. In the bottom of the fifth, O'Neill roped a one-out single, swiped second, and scored on a double by Crank. Three batters later, after the Wolverines drew a pair of a walks to load the bases, Winger pumped a two-run single through the right side of the infield, which gave the squad a 4-2 advantage.
Staring at another deficit, the Lion lineup struggled a bit in the middle innings as Wolverine starter Matt Broder faced the minimum in the sixth and seventh to maintain his two-run edge. With time running out on PSU, the squad finally pieced together its first true rally of the series in the top of the eighth.
Lynd led off the inning with a five-pitch walk before Deegan fought off a tough changeup and poked a base hit to right. Later, after DeBernardis was drilled by a pitch to load the bases, Steranka showed incredible patience at the plate to draw another five-pitch walk, which brought in Lynd and pulled Penn State within one at 4-3.
Still not finished, the Lions looked to be in prime position for a big inning as the squad still had the bags packed with no outs. Unfortunately, the next two batters went down looking, and although a wild pitch allowed Steranka to scamper home with the tying run, an inning-ending ground out left Penn State tied but wondering what could have been.
From there, Herring took control and held Michigan scoreless as long as he could. Despite his best efforts, he could not get any support from his offense as the Wolverines struck last in the 11th to capture the extra-inning affair.
The two teams will return to action tomorrow at 4 p.m. for the regular season finale, which will air live on the Big Ten Network.