Poor Defense Plagues Nittany Lions in Blowout Loss to Pitt

Story posted April 18, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Will Desautelle

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State has struggled mightily on the diamond the last couple of weeks, and those struggles continued on Tuesday night, as Pittsburgh routed the Nittany Lions, 9-1.

Schuyler Bates got the start for the Lions on Tuesday evening, and the Panthers jumped on him right out of the gate. Pitt first baseman Caleb Parry drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single immediately following a leadoff triple from Jacob Wright. 

Shortstop P.J Demeo reached based on an error from Christian Helsel to lead off the top half of the second inning. Wright then collected his second hit of the game to bring in Demeo and give Pitt an early 2-0 lead. 

Josh Mitchell was on the mound for Pitt to start Tuesday’s contest, and the big lefty came out firing with two strikeouts in his opening inning. Carlos Gomez, who looked sharp in relief, replaced Mitchell after one inning.

The top of the fourth inning got off to a rocky start for Bates and the Lions as two errors allowed Pitt catcher Manny Pazos to reach base and advance all the way to third after a mishandled throw down to second from Brett Davis. To pile onto the already poor defensive inning, a subsequent wild pitch from Bates allowed Pazos to give Pitt a 3-0 lead. Dakota Forsyth would then replace Bates with one out in the inning. Pitt wasted no time scoring their fourth run of the ballgame off of a passed ball that allowed Demeo to score for the second time on the evening.

The Panthers blew the game open in a wild top half of the fifth inning. Yaya Chentouf and Frank Maldonado both singled to lead off the inning. Both runners then stole bases, and Forsythe afterward walked Nick Banman to load the bases with one out. With the bases loaded, Manny Pazos lofted a fly ball into left center field that was dropped by left fielder Nick Riotto, allowing Chentouf and Maldonado to score the Panthers’ fifth and sixth runs.

“I think we lost focus tonight, and that’s just unacceptable. It’s something we will need to fix in practice going into our next few games,” Christan Helsel said, who had three hits in the leadoff spot for the Nittany Lions on Tuesday. 

Penn State’s inability to make clean plays defensively and drive in runners played a critical role in translating to a lopsided score at the end of the game.

“We had more strikeouts than hits after the sixth inning. It was just not a good effort and not a good performance, and that starts with me. I did not have our guys ready to go tonight,” Penn State coach Rob Cooper said.

The sidearm right-hander Tom Mullin stepped up to the mound for Penn State to begin the sixth inning. Alex Amos reached base to start off the inning after being hit by a Mullin fastball. Another error, this time on a groundball to third baseman Logan Goodnight off the bat of Caleb Parry, scored Amos to give Pitt a 7-0 lead. Mullins would hit another batter and walk two more in the inning to load the bases with two outs. Nick Banman would capitalize off the opportunity with a two-run single to give Pitt a 9-0 lead and end Mullins’ short outing.

Meanwhile, Gomez was excellent on the mound for the Panthers, tossing 4.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts, earning his third win of the season. TJ Pagan would replace Gomez in the bottom if the sixth and have little trouble, striking out two batters in 2.1 innings of work.

Cole Bartels retired the top of the Panthers order in the top of the eighth inning with just eight pitches and two strikeouts, but the Lions could never generate the offense to compensate for their lackluster defensive performance. A ninth inning RBI single from Mason Nadeau would be the lone run the Nittany Lions would score.

The Lions actually had a 10-8 edge in the hit column but also committed five errors to Pitt’s one. The Lions also failed to record a hit with a runner in scoring position. Christian Helsel and Ryan Sloniger each finished with three hits on the evening for the Lions, but the rest of the lineup combined to hit just 3-24 with ten strikeouts. Bates would take the loss on Tuesday night, dropping his record to 1-3 on the year.

“We have got to take care of the ball better. It is not like our guys mean to make errors or strike out, but we need to do a better job of fixing it. We are not playing the game at a high level at all right now,” Cooper added. 

Frank Maldonado finished with two hits and an RBI, while Nick Banman would finish with a hit and two RBIs. The Panthers improved to 16-17, while the Lions drop to 12-24 on the year. Pitt will be back home for a game tomorrow evening against Kent State at 6:30 pm, while Penn State will host Northwestern in a three game series beginning on Friday at 6:30 pm.

 


Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email willdesautelle@gmail.com.