Penn State Baseball drops Big Ten opener 5-1 to Minnesota
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA- Penn State opened up Big Ten play with a 5-1 loss to Minnesota on a brisk, but sunny afternoon at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
“It’s the kind of thing you get used to,” Penn State starting pitcher Dante Biasi said about the cold weather. “Playing in the northeast, it’s going to be cold some games.”
Penn State had little trouble getting runners on base early on and a bases-loaded single by Gavin Homer in the bottom of the second scored Ryan Ford to put the Nittany Lions up 1-0. Ford has been on a hot streak as of late and Saturday’s game added to that.
“For a young hitter, he’s been really mature,” Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said on Ford. “We need offense, so we need guys who can have quality at-bats, and grind them out, and he’s doing a good job so far and it’s nice having him at the end of the lineup.”
After cruising through three innings, the wheels began to fall off for Penn State pitcher Dante Biasi, but the struggles can’t be attributed to the Penn State southpaw. A miscommunication in shallow right, followed by an error by Justin Williams on a bunt, then a dropped ball in deep right led to a three-base error and put Minnesota up 2-1.
“We just didn’t play very well defensively,” Cooper said. “When you’re playing a good team and you’re facing a guy like Max Meyer, outs are valuable and when you give them extra outs and don’t take care of the baseball, which we didn’t do at all today, and I think they were all in that one inning as well. You make it really hard.”
Following that, an error by Gavin Homer, his second of the game, scored another Minnesota run to make the score 3-1. Minnesota then jumped up 4-1 on a two-out double down the left field line by Ben Mezzenga. The Golden Gophers batted around on the inning, but only recorded two hits.
It was an extremely sloppy fourth inning for the Nittany Lions defensively, and one that spoiled Biasi’s strong outing.
“Everyone knows we just got to clean a couple of things up,” Biasi said. “We don’t usually make that many errors. I’m not worried about it, I know my guys are going to bounce back.”
Biasi dominated Minnesota hitters for the most part on Saturday, and he didn’t let the defensive struggles change his mindset.
“You have to keep the same approach,” Biasi said. “When you really try to do too much, that’s when things get even more out of hand.”
Biasi finished his day retiring six of the last seven hitters he faced, finishing with a line of six innings, three hits, four runs (none of them earned), 12 strikeouts, and one walk.
Cooper was quick to praise Biasi and his team’s efforts.
“Dante Biasi pitched really well,” Cooper said. “He gave us an unbelievable effort and I thought we competed really well.”
Saturday was Biasi’s second consecutive game with double-digit strikeouts and he talked about his approach over his last two starts.
“It’s been working in and out with my fastball,” Biasi said. “Just pitching off of that, pitching backward to guys. Just really attacking the strike zone.”
Conor Larkin came in relief of Biasi and surrendered a two-out double to Easton Bertrand, who knocked in Cole McDevitt after he reached base on a Larkin walk. That double moved the score to 5-1 Minnesota after the top of the seventh.
Following the top half of the seventh, Nick Lackney relieved Golden Gophers starter, Max Meyer. Meyer went six innings, giving up fives hits, one earned-run while striking out seven and walking two.
Larkin concluded his day with a 1-2-3 top of the ninth. He finished his day with three strong innings, surrendering two hits, one earned-run while striking out five and walking one.
Penn State could not scratch any runs across in the bottom half of the ninth and the Nittany Lions fell by a final score of 5-1.
The Nittany Lions’ offense struggled, recording only five hits and one run on the day. Facing an elite pitcher like Meyer can tend to alter offense’s approaches at times
“We had a pretty good scouting report on him,” Cooper said. “We kind of knew what he was going to do, and I think we made him throw 48-pitches in the first two innings. We laid off his slider down, which he loves. But, the guy is really good, and we got to figure out a way to find a way to score even when he’s on.”
Minnesota reliever Nick Lackney finished with three strong hitless innings. Lackney struck out two and walked one in relief of Meyer.
Penn State returns to action Sunday at noon for game one of a doubleheader.
Jake Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.