Strong Pitching, Bartels Walk-Off Single Lift Penn State Past No. 18 Michigan

Story posted March 26, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Matthew McLaughlin

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Coming into this weekend series against Michigan, pitching and offense were huge question marks for the Nittany Lions. But Bailey Dees gave a resounding response, and Cole Bartels came up clutch, as the Nittany Lions defeated the Wolverines 3-2 in a back-and-forth affair that went 10 innings on Friday night.

Pitching 6 2/3 innings, Dees beautifully painted the corners and lost control much less frequently than what he’s put on film in the past, finishing with seven strikeouts and two walks while only giving up two earned runs.

While his 106 pitches may appear high on the surface, Dees pitched with poise through multiple jams, including a bases-loaded situation in the top of the fourth frame that would have broken the game open in favor of Michigan.

Beyond Dees, Tyler Shingledecker came up huge, entering the game in the top of the sixth with runners on first and third with two outs, ending the inning via groundout to shortstop.

Head coach Rob Cooper spoke on the excellence of Dees and the bullpen in the postgame press conference.

“Bailey Dees pitched like Bailey Dees, and, obviously, Shingle[decker] and [Mason] Mellott did a great job too,” Cooper said. “[I’m] extremely proud of our kids and how bad they’ve been wanting to compete and win and how they pulled this one out tonight.”

The potential for a strong rotation and bullpen is there, but the offense has struggled to provide run support. Prior to this series opener with the Wolverines, the Nittany Lions were downed by the Maryland Terrapins 7-2 in one of the most deflating losses this season.

Similarly, on Friday, the offense sparked for two runs during the second inning but rarely got momentum on its side after that. After the second, the Nittany Lions only mustered one hit the rest of the way. To his credit, Michigan starter Steve Hajjar posted some great numbers, giving up only one earned run on four hits and punched out 11 in six innings of work.

However, this has been a running theme with Penn State for a majority of the season: either the pitching or hitting dominates, but rarely has it been a complete team effort. Over the course of 12 games, Penn State has posted double-digit run totals twice. In those two games, Penn State has split 1-1, but Penn State pitchers also gave up 19 runs, which makes this win so important.

The Nittany Lions needed a spark, whether it was from the pitching staff or the lineup. Something was needed to give this team a shot in the arm, and Cole Bartels, who went 0 for 4 on batting attempts in this game prior to the winner, was exactly that guy on Friday.

The bullpen was excellent, the hitting showed up when it needed to, and that’s all that matters.

Game 2 and 3 against Michigan are on tap for a Saturday double header.

 

Matthew McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email mem6936@psu.edu.