In-State Opponent Pitt Pulls Away With a Victory Against Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- Following an electric win over Youngstown State, Penn State had momentum going into their Wednesday game against the Pittsburgh Panthers. That momentum was halted however when the Nittany Lions just couldn’t seem to get anything going in their 7-2 loss against Pitt.
Starting Pitcher Conor Larkin had a strong opening to the game, striking out two of the three batters that came to the plate in the first inning. After a scoreless inning by the Nittany Lions, Larkin took the mound again but did not get through the lineup as swiftly as the first inning. A pair of singles by Pitt’s Ron Washington Jr. and Nico Popa put runners on first and second with just one out. Larkin didn’t panic, though, and struck out the following two batters to get out of the second inning.
Penn State scored the first runs of the game in the second inning. The first run uniquely came on an inside-the-park home run by Kris Kremer for his fourth home run of the year. The Nittany Lions struck again that inning after Justin Williams drove in Jacob Padilla on a double into the right center gap. This put Penn State’s lead at two runs heading into the third inning.
Larkin took the mound once again after working out of a jam in the second inning. The third inning proved to be similar to last as an error by left fielder Gavin Homer put runners on second and third with two outs. The stress wasn’t enough to affect the performance of Larkin, as he recorded the final out of the inning.
“ I take a deep breath, last year I had problems with rushing,” Larkin said about his composure on the mound.
After their two-run second inning, the Nittany Lions could not get anything going at the plate. They failed to score a run in the remaining seven innings of the game. Their biggest problem proved to be strikeouts. The team struck out a total of 14 times.
“Twenty-seven outs, 14 are strikeouts so there is no chance for the other team to make an error,” Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said.
Conor Larkin continued to be the one bright spot in an otherwise bleak Penn State performance. The bases were loaded in the top of the fourth inning with one out. Larkin followed the rough start to the inning with a strikeout and a groundout. Larkin pitched into the middle of the fifth inning, where he was replaced by Hutch Gagnon. Larkin finished with no earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched and recorded eight strikeouts, a career high for him.
Following the stellar pitching performance of Larkin, the Penn State bullpen could not match up as each pitcher gave up at least one earned run. A 2-RBI hit from Pitt’s Bryce O’Farrell off Hutch Gagnon in the sixth inning tied the game up at two runs. Kyle Virbitsky then entered the game and recorded two scoreless outs to prevent anymore damage.
Pitt struck again in the seventh inning after Virbitsky loaded the bases and walked a runner into score. That run put the score at 3-2 Panthers. Control seemed to be the biggest dilemma for the Nittany Lions. They totaled seven walks while hitting five batters. Each pitcher for Penn State hit at least one batter which is unusual.
The Nittany Lions were unable to answer the scoring burst from the Panthers, and Pitt took advantage by adding two more runs to their lead on a two-run RBI single by Cole MacLaren. Pitt scored one more time before the end of the inning and they lead 6-2 after eight innings.
The bats were simply not effective for Penn State and they were unable to answer in the last two innings giving them their 12th loss of the season. Their strikeout woes along with the concerns of leaving runners on base handed Pitt the victory.
“We gave them a free bee,” Cooper said.
The Nittany Lions look to bounce back in a three-game conference series against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Medlar Field this weekend.
Joseph Muscente is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism.To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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