Gritty Not Pretty, Penn State Comes Out On Top Of Omaha
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State demonstrated its never say die mentality Friday night.
After falling behind two separate times, Penn State was able to come out victorious 8-7 after Tayven Kelly reached on error after a tough play by third baseman Mike Boeve.
“It was not pretty by any means,” head coach Rob Cooper said. “You heard me say before, don't apologize for a win.”
Penn State had a 5-1 lead entering the top of the fifth inning, and had their ace on the mound. However, that lead wasn’t enough as sophomore Travis Luensmann and the Nittany Lion bullpen exploded.
It's been a seesaw season with Penn State yet to find its mojo.
Their season reached a high point last time out when they defeated West Virginia 8-4 in Morgantown on Wednesday night. Coming into Friday’s game, the Nittany Lions tried to keep the good times rolling.
It was not the pitching duel we expected with Travis Luensmann on the bump for Penn State. Luensmann, the ace of Penn State’s staff, ran into some trouble early.
Omaha had a patient approach and made Luesmann work all night long. The Mavericks jumped on Luensmann’s fastball and laid off the offspeed. He allowed five free passes and wasn't able to qualify for the win. Cooper was still impressed with his effort.
“I didn’t think Travis had his best stuff today at all,” Cooper said. “ But he was competitive, found a way to keep us in it and make pitches when he needed to.”
Sophomore Brady Posch wasn’t expected to go deep into the contest, but surprisingly was given the second inning. Posch got the hook shortly after letting the leadoff hitter reach safely. Easton Smith struggled as well, but the Mavericks’ bullpen was able to settle down and put up some zeros.
A turning point in this game was the bottom of the second inning. Penn State loaded the bases with no outs, but the heart of the order couldn’t capitalize. Johnny Piacentino, Matt Wood and Josh Spiegel all came up empty. Smith came in for Posch and did his job.
Piacentino, Wood and Spiegel were all able to bounce back and get redemption in the fourth. The trio were each able to drive home a run with an RBI hit.
Head coach Rob Cooper discussed his team’s resiliency.
“They came back and battled and stayed with it,” Cooper said. “They probably do a better job of keeping their emotions in check than I do.”
The Mavericks wouldn’t go quietly into the night. Omaha answered Penn State’s four run fourth with a crooked number of their own in the fifth.
Harrison Denk gave the Mavericks the lead back with a two-run single. Penn State’s Carson Kohls got knocked around giving up three runs but his defense didn’t help. Those three runs were unearned.
The unsung hero of the game for the Nittany Lions was sophomore Jaden Henline. Henline gave some stability to the Penn State bullpen, pitching 4.2 innings of scoreless baseball. Henline knew that going deep into the game was key.
“ I tried to go as long as I could… Save some of our arms for the next two games,” Henline said. “Attack the strike zone really and you’ll find good success.”
The theme of Friday’s game was resiliency. Penn State answered every Omaha rally. Friday’s victory showed the true character of this team.
The top eight get into the Big Ten tournament. With Penn State sixth in the Big Ten standings entering the game, they need to play some good baseball down the stretch to get into the Big Ten tournament for the first time in 10 years. This game was a huge step in the right direction.
Johnny Piacentino talked about the importance of this win despite it being a non-conference affair.
“We can go out there and beat whoever we are playing,” Piacentino said. “Not taking any game lightly.”
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