Nittany Lions Split Doubleheader With Spartans

Story posted April 10, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by John McHugh

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Penn State split a doubleheader with Michigan State on Sunday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park after snowfall pushed Saturday’s game back a day. Michigan State (21-6, 5-1 Big Ten) won the first game 5-2, and Penn State (18-14, 5-4 Big Ten) took the second by a score of 7-6.

While the games were played back-to-back, they couldn’t have ended more differently.

The first game started well for Penn State, as a two out single by Connor Klemann gave the Nittany Lions the games first runs in the bottom of the second.

Michigan State would answer in the top of the fourth, when Dan Durkin singled in Marty Bechina, who had reached on a throwing error and advanced to second on a wild pitch.

Aside from the unearned run, Nittany Lion starter Sal Biasi was stellar through five innings, carrying a 2-1 lead into the top of the sixth after a Jim Haley sacrifice fly plated Ryan Sloniger in the bottom of the fifth.

Things would fall apart for Penn State in the sixth inning, however, after Biasi was replaced by Nick Distasio after the sophomore walked the first two hitters of the inning.

Durkin, the first batter Distasio faced, reached on an attempted sacrifice bunt after Penn State first baseman Tyler Kendall failed to cover first.

With the bases loaded, Brandon Hughes hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, moving the runners to second and third. Taylor Grace followed with a sacrifice fly of his own, giving Michigan State a 3-2 lead.

The Spartans added two in the next inning with a Matt Byers RBI triple and a Bechina single, which drove Byers in.

Penn State threatened in the final three innings, but failed to convert having runners on first and second with two outs each time. Dakota Mekkes notched the six-out save for Michigan State.

The second game pitted Penn State’s Justin Hagenman against Michigan State’s Walter Borkovich.

Penn State wasted no time in opening up the scoring. Kendall drove in Nick Riotto in the bottom of the first with a one out ground ball to shortstop, giving the Nittany Lions an early lead.

Michigan State was quick to answer, however, as Justin Hovis drove in Kris Simonton with a sacrifice fly in the top of the second, tying the game at one

Both Borkovich and Hagenman cruised through the next few innings, until Greg Guers doubled to lead off the bottom of the fourth for Penn State. A few batters later, Conlin Hughes drove him in, capitalizing on a Michigan State error by Hovis, giving the Nittany Lions a 2-1 lead.

Penn State grew their lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth, with RBI singles by both Riotto and Jordan Bowersox.

The Spartans fought back in the very next frame. After Brandon Hughes led off with a  double and Durkin singled, Taylor Grace drove both in, cutting the Nittany Lion lead to 4-3. Later in the inning, with Hovis at the plate and runners on second and third, a throwing error by Hagenman allowed the tying run to score.

The back and forth continued in the bottom of the inning when a Riotto two-out single drove in Klemann as Penn State regained the lead, 5-4.

The Nittany Lions would hold the lead behind Jack Anderson until the top of the eighth. With one out and runners on second and third, Hovis attempted a suicide squeeze. Kendall made a heads up play and threw out Hughes at the plate for the innings second out. However, catcher Nick Graham threw to third in an attempt to get the third out of the inning. The throw got past third baseman Haley, and went into foul territory in left field. The errant throw allowed both Taylor Grace and Hovis to score for Michigan State, giving the Spartans a 6-5 lead.

“Crazy swings of emotion,” said Anderson about the play. “We were at such an emotional high after getting them on the squeeze at home, we were ready to get that third out. And then we just let the game speed up as a team, started throwing the ball around too much. But we definitely bounced back.”

Penn State went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, but came out fighting in the ninth.

With one out, Riotto was hit by a pitch, and Haley singled, putting the tying run in scoring position. After Guers popped out, Kendall drove in Riotto from second to tie the game at six. The very next batter, Bowersox, chopped a high fastball to second base. The play looked routine, but the throw by Michigan State’s Durkin was high, pulling Jordan Zimmerman off the bag, allowing Haley to score from third, and giving Penn State a 7-6 walk-off victory.

“That’s hard to do when you’re a couple outs away from winning the game, and then all the sudden something like that happens (the Nick Graham throwing error),” said Penn State manager Rob Cooper after the game. “It takes a lot of mental toughness to come back and keep playing. So that’s why I look at what we did there to get that last game as pretty impressive.”

Jordan Anderson was credited with the win, and Michigan State’s Andrew Gonzalez suffered the loss.

The Nittany Lions return to the diamond on Wednesday when they welcome Bucknell for a mid-week matchup.

John McHugh is a junior studying broadcast journalism. You can contact John at jym5764@psu.edu.