Penn State’s Comeback Falls Short Against Purdue
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Nittany Lions dropped their Big Ten Conference opener to Purdue, 2-3, coming two bags away from tying in the bottom of the ninth.
With two outs and Joe Weisenseel on second, Penn State’s best hitter, Ryan Sloniger walked up to home plate. Sloniger looked to take Purdue’s closer, Ross Learnard deep for a walk-off home run as he swung viciously at the first three pitches he saw, failing to make contact and ending the game.
“If you told me ‘in the ninth inning you’re going to have Ryan Sloniger up with a runner at second and down by a run’ I’d take it every single day of the week,” said Penn State’s Head Coach Rob Cooper. “In the game of baseball, you’re going to have days where you get him… today just wasn’t their day.”
Sloniger came into the game with a hit in 17 of his last 19, now 20, games and team highs in RBIs and hits. The Boilermakers found a way to remove him from the equation, however, as we went 0-4 on the game with two strikeouts and a walk.
Purdue got off to a hot start against Penn State’s Justin Hagenman, and that’s all they would need.
A fielding error in the first by Penn State allowed Purdue’s Jacson McGowan to hit a sacrifice fly to right field after a 10-pitch at-bat.
Penn State filled the bases in the bottom of the first on a single and two walks but failed to convert any runs.
A quiet second inning brought the Boilermakers back up to bat where Hagenman’s first four pitches were all hit into the field, resulting in a single to left center, a sacrifice bunt, a single to right and finally a single to right center, respectively, put Purdue up 2-0.
McGowan would step up with one out in the third and reach on what could have been a routine 6-4-3 double-play but resulted in an error on the throw to first and another run.
Hagenman and his counterpart, Tanner Andrews would then turn the game into a pitchers duel, allowing only four runners and three hits between them until the bottom of the bottom of the 7th.
“I didn’t have my best stuff to start. It was just one of those days where you don’t have the feel for everything yet,” said Hagenman. “I think once I got the feel to mix all three pitches I kind of got them off balance and went from there.”
Penn State finally took their donut off the board in the seventh. Curtis Robison doubled to lead off, followed by a sacrifice fly by Parker Hendershot to move him to third. Weisenseel hit a come-backer single to earn the RBI.
A pitching change from Purdue brought in Bo Hofstra who allowed one hit to load the bases before striking out Sloniger and forcing Jordan Bowersox to hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Hagenman would exit the game in the top of the eighth for Jeff Taylor. Hagenman finished the game with seven innings pitched and three runs on five hits, one earned. Hagenman walked two and struck out nine on the night.
Despite trailing, Taylor solidified Penn State’s defense for the rest of the game, sitting down six of his seven batters and striking out two.
In the bottom of the eighth, Purdue replaced Hofstra for Trevor Cheaney. Mason Nadeau led off, taking second base on a throwing error. A sacrifice groundout by Braxton Giavedoni moved Nadeau to third before Robison hit a sacrifice fly to right to bring Penn State within one before the near miss in the ninth.
With the loss, Penn State is now 7-13 on the season. Half of their 20 games this season have been decided by only one run.
The Nittany Lions return to Medlar Field on Saturday for a doubleheader to finish the series with Purdue.
Tommy Butler is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.