Penn State Falls to Minnesota in Three-Game Series to Start Big Ten Play
The Penn State Nittany Lions took on the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Medlar Field for the first game of a doubleheader between the two. Penn State struggled with errors in their previous game against the Golden Gophers, where they lost 5-1.
Penn State started off the first inning extremely hot, with starting pitcher Bailey Dees giving up no runs and striking one out to start.
Minnesota’s star pitcher Patrick Fredrickson, who had a tremendous season a year ago winning the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, struggled heavily, loading the bases early and ended up giving up two runs including one walked in. He was pulled for Jeff Fasching, who gave up one run on an RBI single from short stop Conlin Hughes.
Penn State gave up two runs to start the second and then scored none of their own in the bottom of the inning. Minnesota would score two more in the top of the third and Penn State would once again go scoreless. Dees struggled heavily in the third and did not get much help from his infielders.
After a scoreless fourth inning, Penn State held Minnesota to no runs in the top of the fifth, Dees was relieved by left handed pitcher Tyler Shingledecker, who ended the top of the inning. Penn State came up big in the bottom of the fifth, scoring two runs on a Kris Kremer double which brought in two runs, tying it at five runs each.
Another scoreless inning occurred in the sixth as Penn State brought in star pitcher Mason Mellot, who has saved three games so far for the Nittany Lions. Jake Stevenson also continued to pitch well for the Golden Gophers, not giving up any runs.
However, errors came back to bite Penn State as they surrendered the tying run in the seventh allowing Minnesota to get themselves back into the game. Both teams would go scoreless in the eighth once again.
Minnesota broke through huge in the top of the first with a huge solo home run from sophomore right fielder Easton Bertrand. Penn State would then commit another error allowing Minnesota to score another run. With runs needed in the bottom of the ninth, Penn State couldn’t get it done and Minnesota would comeback to win 7-5.
Errors haunted Penn State once again as the infield found themselves making mistakes on what should be routine plays.
The second game of the double header kicked off with Eric Mock pitching for Penn State. Ben Mezzenga of Minnesota hit a double and with the help of Jordan Kozicky hitting a single, Mezzenga ran home for the first score of the game. Penn State was held scoreless as Parker Hendershot and Kris Kremer’s hits were fielded to end the first inning.
Both Joshua Culliver and Eric Mock pitched a fantastic second inning, not giving up a single run, but because of a Kozinsky single to mid-field, Mazzenga was able to add another run to bring their lead to two. Culliver held out in the bottom of the second, keeping Penn State scoreless.
The fourth inning got ugly for Penn State. They gave up two home runs and a forced walk after Mock threw four balls. Penn State made a pitching change, bringing in Kyle Virbitsky. Minnesota continued scoring runners with a double by Kozicky, which brought home Bertrand, Wilson, and Mezzenga. Penn State scored one run at the bottom of the fourth with a Kremer run after Homer flied out.
“It was good to have mock out there, he’s a guy that pitches on emotion,” Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. “He’s going to get better.”
Scoring came to a halt in the fifth inning as Culliver and Virbitsky pitched a perfect inning. In the sixth inning, Virbitsky continued his perfect pitching. At the bottom of the sixth inning, Sloniger hit a home run deep right field bringing Hendershot home as well to cut the Minnesota lead to five.
In the top of the seventh inning, Minnesota scored another run with a Sanke single to the right allowing Kozicky to score. Penn State was held scoreless after Minnesota brought in Nolan Burchill to relieve Culliver.
Penn State put in Hutch Gagnon as their third pitcher of the second game. Both Gagnon and Burchill pitched a perfect eighth inning. At the top of the ninth inning, a bit of deja vu happened.
Both Andrew Wilhite and Kozicky were tagged out by Hendershot after both hits were sent directly to Hendershot. Then Klemann caught the ball to the left side and through it across the diamond to Hendershot to tag out Kozicky.
Penn State finished the bottom of the ninth with what looked like the makings of a comeback. Sloniger hit a single to put him and Hendershot on second and third base, then Klemann walked after four balls by Burchill. Mason Nadeau was tagged out by McDevitt after Hendershot scored a run.
Hippenhammer hit a double, bringing Sloniger and Klemann home to cut the Minnesota lead to two. Minnesota brought in Cole Bartels to finish the pitching job and he did so.
“You can't let one three-game series let you down,” Cooper said. “There’s no secret to why we are 13-3, you put your head down, work hard and compete.”
Minnesota finished the game holding on as Penn State tried to rally back. They won 8-6 over Penn State to sweep in the series 3-0 to start Big Ten play.
“We have to get our bodies right, double headers are physically demanding, but once we get out there we just play ball,” Sloniger said.
Penn State’s next game is at home against Binghamton on March 26.
David Saggio is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism, to contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trent Fye is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism, to contact him, email email@example.com.