Penn State Suffers Two Bullpen Losses
Penn State lost in disappointing fashion twice on Saturday, 7-6 in the last two innings of a game that was suspended due to lightning Friday night and 8-7 in a second game that the Nittany Lions led 7-2 through seven innings.
The Penn State bullpen faltered twice after two impressive outings from its starters.
On Friday, Justin Hagenman posted a season-high eight innings with eight strikeouts, 10 hits allowed and four runs surrendered. The Nittany Lions owned a 6-4 lead when the contest resumed Saturday.
Mason Mellott came in to close out the first game, but he gave up three runs on four hits in the ninth to wipe out the Nittany Lion lead. Penn State was unable to score again and lost 7-6.
After a short break between games, Penn State bounced back strong in both the batters box and on the bump in the matchup originally scheduled for Saturday.
Penn State starter Dante Baisi came out firing, striking out two in the first inning before retiring nine of 10 Northwestern hitters in the next three frames. He didn’t give up a run until the sixth when some defensive miscues, including a throwing error by catcher Ryan Sloniger on a steal attempt, let Alex Erro come around to get the Wildcats on the board.
Penn State manager Rob Cooper brought in Eric Mock from the bullpen for the seventh, and he allowed a run on two hits and a walk. Though Mock looked shaky in the seventh, Cooper threw him again in the eighth, and it proved to be the wrong move.
Charlie Maxwell rocked Mock for a three-run homer before Mock hit a batter and allowed two more hits and two more RBIs. Cooper brought in Marko Boricich to clean up Mock’s mess, but he faced only one batter, Willie Bourbon, who drove in two runs on a one-out single.
Conor Larkin finished off the eighth inning with no further bleeding – Northwestern scored six in the frame – and pitched a scoreless ninth, but Penn State struck out for six of its final seven outs and couldn’t muster up any more run support, falling 8-7.
As manager, Cooper said he took full responsibility for the Nittany Lions’ failure to close out two games that were in hand late.
“Good teams find a way to win close games,” he said. “We’re not a good team right now.”
After two tough losses in one day, the Nittany Lions will have to play Northwestern again Sunday. Cooper says he expects his players to take away motivation from their adversity.
“If you have two games that you can put away and you don’t win them,” he said, “I mean I could have the best speech in the world, and if they’re not motivated to come get a win tomorrow and salvage something from this series, then having a great speech or motivating them or doing that kind of stuff isn’t going to work. I told them, ‘you’ve got to put this behind you, we’re stretching at 10 o’clock.’”
The Nittany Lions play the third and final game of their series against Northwestern Sunday at 1 p.m. before their homestand continues next Friday against Michigan State.
Tyler Olson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. To contact him, email email@example.com.