Offensive Explosion Leads Nittany Lions to 9-3 Win Over Wolverines; Clinch Big Ten Tournament Berth
ANN ARBOR, Mich.; May 13, 2007 ¨C Paul Hawkins (Glen Hope, Pa.) pitched four solid innings in his first career start and the Penn State offense exploded for 16 hits in just seven inning, which included hitting for the cycle in the fourth inning, as the Nittany Lions topped Michigan 9-3 in the first game of Sunday¡¯s doubleheader, a seven-inning game.
Drew O¡¯Neil (Roswell, Ga.) pitched the final two innings of the contest, entering the game when Penn State had just a three-run lead to pick up his eighth save of the year and set a new Penn State single season record for saves, breaking the old record of seven that was held by Shawn Fagan from the 1998 season. Hawkins improved to 3-0 on the year with the win.
Garrett Field (Stillwater, Okla.) went 2-for-4 with a home run and a career-high four RBI from the ninth spot in the order to lead the Nittany Lion hit attack. Seven of the nine hitters in the starting lineup had multiple hits, although none had more than two. Every member of the starting lineup had at least one hit. Matt Cavagnaro (Brighwaters, N.Y.) went 2-for-5 while Scott Gaffney (Westbury, N.Y.) and Joe Blackburn (Sinking Spring, Pa.) went 2-for-4. Cory Wine (Stillwater, Okla.), Mike Deese (Roswell, Ga.) and Brian Ernst (Boyertown, Pa.) each went 2-for-3 while Wine scored a career high three runs.
With the win, combined with Purude's loss to Iowa in those two teams' series finale, Penn State has clinched a berth in the Big Ten Tournament that will be held in two weeks. It will be Penn State's first trip to the Big Ten Tournament since the 2004 season and the first trip under head coach Robbie Wine.
The win also pushed Penn State¡¯s overall record to 24-23, the first time since the conclusion of the 2005 season that the Nittany Lions have been over .500. Penn State finished that year 28-27. The win also improved Penn State¡¯s Big Ten record to 16-9 and the Nittany Lions are guaranteed of at least being in a tie for third place after this weekend regardless of the result of today¡¯s second game.
Penn State drew first blood in the second, manufacturing a run with some timely hitting and two outstanding bunts. Wine led off with a solid single to left and was sacrificed to second by Deese. Rick Marlin (Orlando, Fla.) then dumped a short single into shallow center field that sent Wine to third and then Ernst laid down a perfect bunt right in-between the pitcher, first and second baseman and beat it out for an infield RBI single to drive in Wine to make it 1-0.
In the fourth, Penn State smacked the ball all around Ray Fisher Stadium in amassing five hits, four of which were extra-base knocks, and scoring four runs to take a 5-0 lead. Wine led off with his second hit of the game, a triple into the right field corner. He scored on Deese¡¯s double that nearly reached the wall in left center. After the first out of the inning, Ernst reached on a check-swing single that went to about the same part of the infield as his bunt single in the second and then Deese scooted home from third when second baseman Anthony Toth¡¯s wild throw to first. Then, Field lifted a high fly ball into the light wind blowing out to right field that disappeared in-between the scoreboard and the wall for his first home run of the year and just his second career home run. His first came in just the fourth game of his career last year against Sacred Heart in Clearwater, Fla.
Michigan got on the scoreboard for the first time in the fourth inning as Zach Putnam doubled to lead off, went to third on a groundout, and then scored on another groundout to make it 5-1. The Wolverines then loaded the bases on a single and a pair of walks but Hawkins escaped the jam by getting Jason Christian to pop out to Cavagnaro in short right field.
The Nittany Lions got that run right back in the top of the fifth as Blackburn led off with a bloop double into short right field that he just beat out for a two-bagger. He went to third on a groundout and scored on Deese¡¯s single to right to make it 6-1.
With a tiring Hawkins taking the mound to start the fifth, he hit leadoff hitter Toth on a 3-0 pitch and then gave up a single to Nate Recknagel that allowed Toth to go to third. Hawkins was relieved by Matt Ogrodnik (Saltsburg, Pa.). Putnam greeted him with a liner right back to Ogrodnik that he snagged and then threw to first to double off Recknagel for the first two outs of the inning. He then gave up an infield hit to Adam Abraham that scored Toth and then committed a balk, allowing Abraham to move to second. That would prove important as Doug Pickens followed with a single to right to score Abraham to make it 6-3. Ogrodnik escaped further damage by striking out Derek VanBuskirk to end the inning.
O¡¯Neil, after pitching three innings in yesterday¡¯s second game to pick up the win, set down Michigan in the sixth, pitching around a leadoff error by getting an inning-ending double play ball. Then, in the top of the seventh, Field came up with his second two-run RBI hit of the day, as he slapped a two-out single into left field to score two more runs. The bases had been loaded on a single by Blackburn, a walk to Wine, and when Ernst was hit by a pitch. Ernst then scored on Cavagnaro¡¯s single to make it 9-3.
O¡¯Neil then worked a perfect bottom of the seventh for his record setting save.
Game two of the doubleheader, a nine-inning contest, will begin at approximately 3:00 p.m.
Notes: Field¡¯s home run was his first in his last 195 at-bats, spanning his last 67 games¡.His four RBI marked a career high, surpassing the three he had in the same Sacred Heart game on March 5 of last season¡.Ogrodnik made his 24th appearance of the year and is now just five appearances shy of breaking his own season record that he set last year with 28¡.The win was the third over a nationally-ranked team this year after yesterday¡¯s win and the win over North Carolina in March¡.O¡¯Neil has finished all three of those games¡.This marks the second time this year that Penn State has won both of the seven-inning games of a Big Ten series this year. The other was against Northwestern on April 21, a series in which Penn State swept the Wildcats.