Timely Hitting, Clutch Pitching Lift Nittany Lions in Series Finale at Purdue, 8-6
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.; May 8, 2006 ¨C What looked like might be a pitchers¡¯ dual through the first two innings between Craig Clark and Jay Buente of Purdue turned into a back-and-forth contest in the middle innings and Penn State was able to preserve a slim lead in the late innings as the Nittany Lions handed Purdue its first loss in a Big Ten series finale of the season with an 8-6 win. Clark won his third straight decision and Scott Gaffney picked up his first save of the year in the win, which gave Penn State its fourth straight series split and its fifth split in six Big Ten series this year.
After Clark set down the first seven hitters of the game, Purdue got its first hit in the third on a bunt single by Eric Osborn down the third base line. He went to second on a balk committed by Clark and with two outs, scoring on Mitch Hilligoss¡¯ double down the left field line to give the Boilermakers a 1-0 lead.
Penn State answered right back in the top of the fourth, scoring six runs and knocking out Purdue starter Jay Buente. Lance Thompson took the first pitch he saw from Buente to center field for a leadoff single and was sacrificed to second by Scott Gaffney. Aaron Greenfield then ripped his second hit of the day, a shot down the left field line for an RBI double to tie the score. Cory Wine then dumped a single into short center field and Landon Nakata drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Travis Laird then hit a ground ball to short that was booted by Hilligoss for an error, allowing Greenfield to score and keeping the bases loaded. Brian Ernst then stroked a two-run single through the right side and Cavagnaro also singled through the right side to score Laird, making it 5-1 and knocking Buente out of the game in favor of Allan Donato.
Donato got Scott Gummo to ground out to second and Thompson to fly out and end the inning but Ernst was able to score on Gummo¡¯s grounder, making it 6-1 in favor of the Nittany Lions.
The Boilermakers got two runs back in their half of the fourth inning, cutting the lead to 6-3. John Cummins and John Hunter singled to start the inning. After a strikeout, Neal Gorka single through the right side to score Cummins. After the second out of the inning, Osborn hit a ball in the hole between third and short. Gaffney¡¯s throw to first was in the dirt and Osborn was given a single by Hunter was able to score when the throw got behind Wine at first.
Purdue inched closer in the fifth inning. Once again, two straight singles started the inning, this time by Hilligoss and Spencer Ingaldson, although the single by Hilligoss was just a check-swing dribbler that went only halfway to third base. He advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on Ingaldson¡¯s single to right. After Ingaldson was sacrificed to second, he went to third on Clark¡¯s second balk of the game and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Hunter to cut the lead to 6-5.
Penn State loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth inning but left them loaded. The Lions also put their leadoff man on in the top of the seventh on a single by Wine but after he was sacrificed to second, Purdue brought in its closer, Chris Toneguzzi, who retired the last two hitters of the inning.
Clark then did a tremendous job of working out of a jam in the bottom of the seventh, being aided by a tremendous defensive play by Cavagnaro. The first two hitters reached on a leadoff single and then a walk. Hunter then attempted to sacrifice both runners over and popped the ball up in foul territory along the third base line. Cavagnaro, in full stride and running toward the Purdue dugout, made a diving catch to record the first out of the inning. Clark then struck out White and after fouling off several pitches, Gorka also struck out to end the inning.
After coming close in the previous two innings, Penn State finally added some more insurance with two runs in the eighth inning. Cavagnaro and Gummo singled to start the inning, putting runners at the corners. Garrett Field pinch ran for Gummo and stole second. Toneguzzi was then lifted with a 1-1 count on Lance Thompson for Andrew Groves, who gave up a single to Thompson just inside the right field line, scoring both runs. The combination of Groves and the fifth Purdue pitcher of the game, Morgan Regan, retired the Nittany Lions without allowing any more runs despite loading the bases on two more walks.
Purdue scored the first earned run off Matt Ogrodnik in more than a month in the ninth inning. After Ogrodnik worked around a baserunner in the eighth inning without allowing a run, he gave up a leadoff double to Ingaldson, who advanced to third and scored on a groundout. After Ogrodnik gave up an infield single to Ryne White, Gaffney was brought on for his second pitching appearance of the year to face the righty Gorka. He retired him on the first pitch on a groundout to second to pick up his first save of the year and preserve the 8-6 win.
Clark improved to 3-6 with the win. He struck out eight and walked just the one while allowing five runs, four earned, and 11 hits. Offensively, the Lions were led by three-hit performances by Cavaganro, Thompson, and Greenfield. Ernst and Thompson each had two RBI.
Penn State¡¯s Big Ten Tournament hopes remain alive with the win as the Nittany Lions remain in a tie for fifth place. After this weekend¡¯s games, they are tied with both Purdue and Minnesota for fifth, one game behind fourth-place Illinois and one game ahead of both Michigan State and Iowa.
The Lions return home to take on Michigan, who is tied for first place, next weekend in the final-ever games at Beaver Field.
Notes: Gummo reached base for the 23rd consecutive game with a two-out single in the sixth inning¡.Clark issued his first walk in three weeks in the seventh inning. He had not allowed a walk since April 16 vs. Michigan State and had gone 26.2 innings without allowing a walk¡.Ogrodnik allowed his first earned run since in his last 12 appearances in the ninth inning. He has not allowed an earned run since April 2nd at Minnesota¡.Entering today¡¯s game, Purdue and Penn State had the best two records in the Big Ten in series finales: Purdue 5-0 and Penn State 4-1¡.This week¡¯s edition of The Robbie Wine Show will air Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. on WBLF 970 AM and on www.GoPSUsports.com instead of the usual Monday at 7:00 p.m. slot.