Steven Hill's no-hitter against Iowa takes home the No. 1 moment of the 2012 Penn State baseball season.
May 29, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Although the 2012 Penn State baseball ended in disappointment, the Nittany Lion squad put together quite a remarkable second half of the year. After starting the season with a 3-14 record, Penn State went 26-13 in its last 39 contests and finished18-4 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Winning games the second half of the year was no doubt very exciting. What was even more exciting though was how the Nittany Lions won some of these games. Penn State had four walk-off wins, a no-hitter and 16 come-from-behind victories. It would be very unfitting not to acknowledge some of these great moments from the 2012 season.
Below is a list of the Top 10 moments of Penn State's 2012 season. Thank you to the Nittany Lion baseball fans who participated in our Facebook poll in determining the top two moments.
10)March 11 - Kulina Strikes Out the Side at UAB
With the Nittany Lions riding a six-game losing streak, they found themselves tied with the UAB Blazers heading into the ninth inning on March 11. Senior Jordan Steranka (Pittsburgh, Pa.) hit the go-ahead RBI single in the top of the ninth to put the Nittany Lions in line to pick up the win. The Pittsburgh native also hit a two-run homer in the game. The Nittany Lions would face a big scare though in the bottom of the ninth. With runners on first and third with nobody out and the Lions up by one, Freshman Casey Kulina (Hummelstown, Pa.) entered the game and was asked to close it out. The freshman walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. From there, he turned in one of the most gutsy performances of the year. The next batter, Ivan DeJesus, struck out swinging on a 3-2 count. From there, Kulina struck out the next two guys to retire side and pick up the save.
Kulina on the performance: "Every time I come out of the [bullpen] in those situations the only thing in my mind is: `you know what? This is what you play for.' And I'm ready to close the door. It was definitely a huge boost. I think for our team as a whole it was a big confidence booster getting that win in a close, hard-fought game."
9)April 1 - Nittany Lions Pour on 16 Runs to Cool Off Purdue
After dropping the first two games of the series, Penn State closed out the weekend with a season-high 16 runs and 19 hits in a 16-6 victory over the No. 19 Purdue Boilermakers on April 1. The Nittany Lions belted four homeruns and had a seven-run third inning. The first four batters in the Nittany Lion lineup collected a total of 11 hits and drove in 10 runs. Senior Sean Deegan (Readington, N.J.) started it all with leadoff homerun to begin the game. Jordan Steranka had four hits and drove in three runs. Senior Joey DeBernardis (Lake Zurich, Ill.) tied his career-high in RBI with five and belted a two-run homer in the seventh inning. Sophomore Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.) drove in two runs and had three hits. The bottom of the order put together a great performance as well. Sophomore Alex Farkes (Boston, Mass.) had a three-hit performance and two RBI, which included a massive home run in the eighth inning. Freshman Aaron Novak (Ambler, Pa.) belted his second homerun of the season as well. Junior Elliot Searer (Lewistown, Pa.) collected two hits.
Deegan on the win: "We were able to carry on what we've been wanting to do all season. Everyone was clicking, everyone was hitting, top to bottom putting runs on the board. With scoring a lot of runs you can be so much more aggressive. It allowed us to drive the ball a little bit more."
8)March 24 - Searer Delivers in Walk-Off, Extra Inning Win Over Indiana
After a long wait to get game underway because of a rain delay, Elliot Searer ended the day on the right note with an extra inning, walk-off RBI single in the 10th to give Penn State a 4-3 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers. After junior Neal Herring (West Chester, Pa.) pitched a scoreless tenth, Penn State would string together two hits and a perfectly executed sac bunt to put together the game-winning run. Junior Luis Montesinos (Miami, Fla.) started things off with a leadoff base hit. Sophomore Zach Ell (Plains, Pa.) then bunted down the first base line of the infield to advance Montesinos. Then on a 2-0 pitch, Searer lofted a single into left centerfield to score Montesinos to win the game for the Nittany Lions.
Searer on the game-winning hit: "The coolest part was turning around and seeing all my teammates come out there after my hit. They've had my back all season so it feels nice to come through for them."
7)March 24 - DeBernardis Double in Extras Lifts Lions Past Minnesota
As they did all season, the Penn State seniors continued to rise to the occasion, as Joey DeBernardis hit a game-winning RBI double in the 10th inning to give Penn State a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The win put Penn State a game over .500 for the first time of the 2012 season after starting 3-14. In the bottom of the 10th with one out and the game tied at three, Steve Snyder worked a big walk to set things up for DeBernardis. The senior roped a double to the left centerfield gap to give the Nittany Lions a 4-3 lead. Junior Dave Walkling (Nanaimo, Canada) came in and picked up his second save of the season.
6)May 11 - Aaron Novak's Game-Saving Diving Catch Against Illinois
Penn State picked up its fifth win in its last six Big Ten games with a 3-2 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini May 11 at Medlar Field. With the game tied at two in the bottom of the sixth, Jordan Steranka hit a solo homer to centerfield to seal a 3-2 win for Penn State. Although Steranka's hit was big, it was Aaron Novak that highlighted the night with one particular play in the eighth inning. With Penn State leading 3-2, Dave Walkling came in to relieve Greg Welsh in eighth, attempting a five-out save. The game-saving play came from Novak, as Will Krug hit one to the gap in right centerfield. Novak came over from his left and made a highlight-reel diving catch for the third out of the inning. Illinois had the game-tying run at third on that play. Walkling threw just 19 pitches and didn't give up a hit to pick up his third save of the season.
5)May 17 - Steranka Steals the Show in East Lansing Jordan Steranka added another page to his Penn State baseball success story on May 17, drilling a two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning to lift the Nittany Lions past Michigan State by a score of 3-2. Steranka's homer came with the Nittany Lions trailing 2-1 at the time. The senior accounted for all three Penn State RBIs and had three hits on the day. In the eighth inning with one out, Joey DeBernardis hit a double to deep right field that landed on the hill in front of the fence. Steranka followed with arguably one of the biggest hits of his career, a two-run shot that flew off the bat over the right field fence. That would be the first of two big victories in East Lansing.
4)April 15 - Nittany Lions Rally to Earn Wine His 200th Career Win
Penn State seniors Jordan Steranka and Sean Deegan again played heroic roles in the Nittany Lions' huge 6-4 victory over Michigan on April 15. With the Lions trailing in the seventh, Deegan hit a two-run bomb to put Penn State (15-20, 4-5) up. Steranka added insurance with a homer in the eighth. Head Coach Robbie Wine picked up his 200th career victory as Penn State skipper. Wine became the fifth head coach in school history to eclipse the 200-win plateau, joining Joe Hindelang (389), Joe Bedenk (380), Chuck Medlar (308) and Shorty Stone (216). Things would get entertaining in the seventh inning. Michigan combined for four hits in the frame, including two singles, a double and a triple. Three runs would score to put the Wolverines up by one. However, in the bottom half, Penn State would answer with two outs again. Freshman JC Coban (Boca Raton, Fla.) reached second on a hustling double. With two gone and a 1-2 count, Deegan launched a ball over the right centerfield fence to put the Nittany Lions back in front. With Penn State leading 5-3, Michigan crept back in the top of the eighth with a run to make it 5-4. But Steranka wrapped up his three-homer weekend with a shot to left field to give the Nittany Lions an insurance run.
3)April 15 - DeBernardis Knocks off Sparty with Homer in the Ninth
The day before, it was Jordan Steranka. The next day, it was Joey DeBernardis' turn. In the top of ninth with the ballgame tied at five, Michigan State called for their closer Tony Wieber, who had not allowed a homer all season. DeBernardis ripped a fastball over the left field fence to give the Nittany Lions a huge 6-5 victory. With the victory, Penn State still remained in a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings. Wieber, arguably the best closer in the Big Ten, was called upon to shut the Nittany Lions down in the ninth. Wieber had not given up a homerun this year until he threw a one-out, 1-0 pitch to DeBernardis. The senior scorched it over the right field fence to put the Nittany Lions up 6-5 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Dave Walkling picked up his seventh save of the season, extending his scoreless innings streak to 11.1.
2)April 29 - Deegan Dooms Buckeyes with Walkoff Three-Run Homer Sean Deegan was due, and did he ever deliver. With two outs in the bottom of the 10th , runners on second and third and the Nittany Lions trailing by two runs, Deegan hammered a towering shot over the right centerfield wall to give Penn State an 8-7 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes on April 29. Ohio State, who rallied to tie the game at five and force extra innings, put up a two-spot in the top of the tenth inning. The Nittany Lions had the challenge of facing one of the top closers in the conference in the hard-throwing Josh Dezse. With its chances being slim, Penn State put together its most memorable two-out rally in years. JC Coban who was badly injured in the top of the 10th and remained tough with an injured ankle, forced a two-out walk. Freshman Taylor Skerpon (Sayre, Pa.) came in to pinch run Elliot Searer. The shortstop faced a 1-2 count with two outs and looked at three straight balls to bring the tying run in Deegan to the plate.
Deegan on the homer: "That's just something you dream about. You always dream about hitting that walk-off and throwing your helmet up and having your teammates mob you at the plate, so it's just unreal."
1)April 21 - Hill Throws First Penn State No-Hitter Since 1995
With little to no surprise, the first Penn State no-hitter in 17 years made our number one moment of the 2012 season. Junior Steven Hill (Colleyville, Texas) threw a no-hitter in a 2-0 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes on April 21. Hill was the first Penn State pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Nate Bump did against Duquesne in 1995. Hill is the first Nittany Lion pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter in a Big Ten game. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a 1-1 count, Hill forced Jacob Yacinich to ground out to shortstop Elliot Searer. Searer made one of many fantastic plays at short on the day by firing a ball to Jordan Steranka at first to end the game and make Penn State baseball history. Hill had some stellar defensive play behind him. Most notably, with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Mike McQuillan hit a scorching ball to left field. Sean Deegan made a great read on the ball and ran back to make a fantastic catch. Additionally, in the seventh inning with two outs, Ryan Rumph ripped a ground ball down the first base line. Steranka made a great play on the line and flipped the ball to Hill to end the inning and keep the no-hitter alive. Hill stuck out three batters on the day and allowed a total of just two base runners. The junior threw 105 total pitches, 69 of them for strikes. Hill picked up his fourth consecutive victory and pitched his second complete game of the season. Catcher JC Coban not only caught the no-hitter, but he also provided the run support for Hill. In the top of the fifth, the Nittany Lions had a runner on first with one out. Coban launched a ball off the left centerfield scoreboard, a two-run shot, to give Penn State a 2-0 lead.
Hill on the no-hitter: "I would never expect to throw a no-hitter. I've never done it before. There are so many non-baseball things running through my head right now. It's truly amazing. I'm truly blessed."
Wine on Hill's performance: "When you are in the game, you don't really think about it. And still it really hasn't sunk in yet. But for Steve Hill to go out there and do that for the team in such a crucial game, it's huge. For the season it means a lot and for him he'll remember that forever. It's just a fun event and once again, it reinforces why you coach."