Penn Stop Drops Series Finale to Indiana

Story posted March 26, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Mike Penrose

The Indiana Hoosiers (10-14, 2-1 Big Ten) defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions (5-16, 1-2 Big Ten) by a final score of 2-1 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Sunday afternoon.

The rubber match marked the end of first series of Big Ten play for both teams, both of whom have gotten off to slow starts in nonconference play. It was a low scoring game, with both teams struggling offensively against good pitchers.

The Nittany Lions received a quality start from junior Steven Hill. Hill threw 6.1 innings, striking out four and allowing only four hits and two earned runs, both in the top of the sixth inning.

“My stuff felt good, arm felt great,” said Hill. “I knew my pitch count was getting high in the sixth, so a hit batter and other things probably ended my day before I would have liked. At the same time, you have to tip your hat to the Indiana hitters.”

While Hill started the sixth with two quick outs, he gave up a double on a 2-1 pitch to Indiana first baseman Sam Travis, who leads the Hoosiers with nine doubles on the season.

After hitting Indiana shortstop Michael Basil with a wild fastball, Hill then surrendered a two run double to left fielder Chris Sujka. The right handed Sujka slapped the ball towards Nittany Lion right fielder Zach Ell. It appeared that Ell could have caught the ball to end the inning but miscalculated his route and took a bad first step.

Penn State struggled against Indiana starting pitcher Kyle Hart through five innings. The Nittany Lions finally figured out the freshman lefthander in the bottom of the sixth, chasing him from the game despite having thrown just 70 pitches.

Penn State centerfielder Steve Snyder led off the inning with a walk. Left fielder Sean Deegan then flew out, but third baseman Joey DeBernardis singled to move Snyder into scoring position. After first baseman Jordan Steranka struck out, right fielder Zach Ell was hit with a pitch, bringing up second baseman Luis Montesinos with the bases loaded.

Montesinos delivered for Penn State, hitting an infield single that cut the deficit to 2-1. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, catcher JC Coban would ground out to relief pitcher Ryan Halstead on a full count, ending the scoring threat.

The ninth inning would present another opportunity for Penn State's offense. With the score still 2-1, Ell led off the inning with a walk. Montesinos then stepped up to the plate against Indiana closer Matt Dearden. Despite having two hits in three at bats, Penn State head coach Robbie Wine elected to have Montesinos sacrifice bunt to advance Ell into scoring position. Wine defended his decision after the game.

"Letting Luis swing was an idea I toyed with beforehand," Wine said. "He got a strike on him first pitch, so I thought sacrifice bunt. Obviously, it's important to just get that runner into scoring position, especially in a game like this."

The sacrifice bunt worked, and Montesinos successfully moved Ell into scoring position. The Nittany Lions would load the bases with one out before pinch hitter Sean Parvin grounded into a game-ending 1-2-3 double play started by new reliever Jonny Hoffman.

The offensive woes for Penn State wasted excellent efforts on the mound by Hill and reliever Casey Kulina. Kulina threw 2.2 hitless innings, allowing just two walks and giving Penn State every chance to get back into the game. Wine credited the pitching staff with finding a grove in the last two games.

"I like where our starting pitching and bullpen are at right now," Wine said.

Wine has continued to insist that the team look forward after tough losses.

"Today, you have to credit Indiana," he said. "This was tough. We have to decide who we are as a team and where we are going from here."

Penn State returns to Medlar Field on Wednesday, taking on Coppin State in a doubleheader. The first pitch of the first game will be at 2 p.m. Both games can heard live on ComRadio.

Mike Penrose is a senior majoring in Telecommunications. To contact him, email mfp5044@psu.edu.