BASE: Wild Sixth Inning Propels Northwestern Past Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions returned to the diamond on Friday night for the first matchup of a three game series with the Northwestern Wildcats in University Park this weekend. The Lions were embarrassed 9-1 to Pittsburgh on Tuesday and were looking to get back on track with Sal Biasi making his tenth start of the 2017 season.
Biasi made effective use of his near 90-plus mph fastball and his tough curveball to tally four strikeouts in his first two innings.
Cooper Wetherbee was on the mound for the Wildcats. After a quick first inning, the Nittany Lions got on the board twice in the bottom on the second. Nick Riotto led off and then stole second base not long before Ryan Sloniger blooped a single of his own to shallow left field. A safety squeeze bunt by Brett Davis brought Riotto home. The next batter, Logan Goodnight, struck an RBI single to left to make it 2-0.
The Wildcats finally got a hold of Biasi in the fourth inning when Jack Dunn hit a leadoff single in and then stole second. Joe Hoscheit subsequently hit an RBI double down right field line to cut lead to 2-1.
Penn State answered in the bottom half of the inning when Nick Riotta went deep with a solo shot, his second long ball of the year to push the lead back to two runs. Meanwhile, Biasi continued to deal through the top of the fifth inning. After allowing two base runners, a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning discharged Penn State of any danger.
Penn State extended its lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth. Mason Nadeau walked and then stole second to lead off the inning. Nick Riotto followed that up by driving him in with a single for his second RBI of the game, which ended Wetherbee’s night.
All looked great for Penn State, and the moment it appeared they were about to get back on track, the sixth inning came. Rob Cooper pulled Biasi in the top of the sixth after walking Northwestern’s first two batters of the inning. Biasi all around had a very solid evening on the hill, but his replacement, Dakota Forsythe, entered the game and struggled mightily. Matt Hopfner would drive in Jack Dunn with RBI double, and then Jack Claeys trimmed the lead to 4-3 with RBI single to score Joe Hoscheit. Forsythe would fail to record an out in relief and eventually allow the tying run to score.
Forsythe may have struggled, but his replacement, Taylor Lehman, was an absolute disaster. Lehman would incredulously throw four wild pitches in the inning, including three in the same at bat to eventually give Northwestern an 8-4 lead. He was shortly replaced by Cole Bartels, who finally got out of the inning after what seemed an eternity. However, this was not before Hoscheit came back to the plate and delivered with a 2 RBI single to make it 10-4.
Just when it appeared those sixth inning demons were put to rest, another wild pitch, this time from Bartels, scored Charlie Maxwell for the Wildcats’ 11th run of the game. Jake Pilewicz would enter the game for Bartels later in the inning and retire the side.
On the bright side, Nick Riotto, who has struggled at times during the year, would collect his fourth hit of the ballgame in the bottom on the seventh with an RBI single.
“A lot of adjustments have been made with Coach Ross [Oeder]. I would rather get a win, but it feels good to have a night like this.,” said Riotto after the game.
Unfortunately, Penn State could never dig themselves out of the hole they created in the sixth inning as Northwestern would march on to win game one by a score of 12-5. Penn State drops 12-25, while Northwestern improves to 15-22.
Penn State pitchers would combine to walk eight batters and throw six wild pitches, despite a relatively solid start from Biasi.
“Somebody other than Sal has to step up and help us win, but for the tough, emotional game he had on Friday, for him to come out tonight and respond was impressive. I’m proud of him,” said coach Rob Cooper.
Both teams will be back in action out at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park tomorrow evening at 6pm for the second game of the weekend series.
Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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