Strong starts from Hagenman, Lehman fuels Penn State doubleheader sweep over NJIT
With the sun struggling to fight through the clouds and a snowy Tussey Mountain visible past the right field bleachers, Penn State’s repeatedly postponed opening day at Medlar Field finally happened Saturday.
A game against Mount St. Mary’s scheduled for earlier this week was postponed until mid-April, then Friday’s series opener against the NJIT Highlanders was pushed back for a Saturday doubleheader.
The Nittany Lions won the first game of the doubleheader 4-3, then capped that off with a 5-3 win in the second.
Penn State started Justin Hagenman for the first matchup, who held NJIT to just one run and allowed only four baserunners through the first five innings.
In the other dugout, NJIT starter Sean Lubreski loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter in the first inning. Mason Nadeau drove in Connor Klemann with a single, but Shea Sbranti bailed out NJIT with a baserunning mistake on the same play and was thrown out at home to end the inning.
Lubreski allowed ten baserunners and four runs in his five total innings pitched.
Hagenman gave up a couple runs in the sixth inning, but got out of the jam before any further damage could be done by striking out Matt Cocciadieferro.
Both teams’ bullpens pitched shutout ball in the first half of the doubleheader. For Penn State, Marko Boricich retired the Highlanders in order in the seventh inning while Mason Mellott allowed only one hit as he closed out the game in the eighth and ninth. Tommy Derer gave up just three baserunners in three innings pitched for NJIT.
The quality of play from the starters again proved decisive in the second game.
Penn State’s Taylor Lehman didn’t have his best stuff on the mound for much of his time on the mound, but he fought though to give the Nittany Lions six quality innings.
In the first couple frames he couldn’t seem to control his breaking ball, then after a clean third inning, Lehman loaded the bases in the fourth in part because of an error he committed. Penn State started warming up right-hander Jake Pilewicz in the bullpen as Lehman looked flustered with the baserunners, but he was able to close out the inning by forcing NJIT’s Paul Franzoni to fly out.
“I wasn’t getting ahead of batters very well but fighting when I had my back against a wall got me through,” Lehman said after the game. “Sometimes you just don’t have your stuff, I just kind of made adjustments.”
Penn State manager Rob Cooper brought out Lehman again in the seventh, but after NJIT got a runner on he turned to RHP/IF Eric Mock, who retired all three batters he faced with just six pitches.
NJIT starter Jared Kacso had a rocky fourth inning and was pulled in favor of Brian Sondergard after allowing a baserunner in the fifth, putting a lot of pressure on the NJIT bullpen.
Sondergard closed out the fifth inning, but allowed a leadoff triple to Braxton Giavedoni in the sixth. Mason Nadeau drove in Giavedoni with a double, then advanced to third on a Sondergard balk before scoring on a sacrifice fly from Conlin Hughes.
Sondergard was pulled for John Saviano, who got in trouble and was replaced by James Sofield before Aquib Ramkishun finished off the game for NJIT.
Mock meanwhile continued to melt NJIT hitters for the remainder of the game, getting ahead of them with his 90 mph fastball and forcing them to chase his off-speed stuff later in the count.
Although Mock did give up a fluky home run to Jesse Uttendorfer that rode the wind into the right field stands, he retired all nine of the other batters that he faced.
Penn State still has plenty of fresh arms for the final game of the NJIT series on Sunday after its starters and relievers ate up innings Saturday.
“Mock was lights out. Mason Mellott did his thing. Marko [Boricich] helped us out,” Cooper said after the game. “We’re in good position heading into tomorrow too. Mellott will come back, Marko can come back, so we’ve still got some guys back there.”
Tyler Olson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.