Lions defeat Panthers in walk-off fashion
The Penn State Nittany Lions (14-26) defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers (16-26) in nine innings Wednesday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Pittsburgh jumped to an early lead on Penn State starter Tom Mullin, picking up two runs on a Boo Vazquez home run to right field. After that homerun, Mullin pitched shutout baseball until Sal Biasi came in to pitch in the top of the fourth inning.
“We didn’t take him out because we thought he couldn’t continue to pitch, he’s also a guy for us that we need in the bullpen this weekend against Rutgers and so we had him on a low pitch count,” said Penn State head coach Rob Cooper.
Penn State scored a run in both the second and third innings by a Taylor Skerpon single and a J.J. White fielder’s choice. In the fifth, Penn State’s Aaron Novak was able to score on a Jim Haley single and a throwing error by Pittsburgh’s Aaron Schnurbusch. Then, extending their lead to 4-2 in the sixth, Penn State added another run on a James Coates single.
“If you have a good approach like that, you’re willing to make an adjustment, you’re willing to not give into the pitcher then you get a lot of hits,” Cooper said.
After going silent for five straight innings, Pittsburgh’s offense came back to life when Boo Vazquez knocked in a run on an RBI triple and Kowalczyk then scored Vazquez on a groundout to shortstop.
With the game tied at four runs, J.J. White delivered a single to right field scoring Jim Haley. White then took second on a wild pitch and scored on a dropped fly ball by right fielder Boo Vazquez making Penn State lead 6-4 going into the eighth.
The Panthers tacked on another run in the top of the eighth before Penn State’s Greg Guers crushed his one ball two-strike count pitch over the right-center field wall.
“A lot of people have no idea how unbelievable that at-bat was because he laid off of a breaking ball down in the dirt making the pitcher for them think ‘What am I going to do here?’” said Rob Cooper on Guers’s at-bat.
In the top of the ninth inning, the Panthers tied the game at seven on an Eric Hess single to right field scoring both Schnurbusch and Maldonado.
Going into the bottom of the ninth, the Nittany Lions wanted to avoid a reenactment of its previous matchup against the Panthers earlier this year that ended up in a twelve-inning marathon.
Jim Haley led off the inning by singling to shortstop and was moved to second on a J.J. White sacrifice bunt. Coming off of the bench in the top half of the inning, Ryan Richter delivered a single to right field moving Haley to third. Finally, Ryky Smith ended the game by hitting a slow-rolling ground ball that shortstop Rob Sherman could not handle allowing Haley to cross the plate to end the game.
“I haven’t had a hit in awhile, so the thing that was going through my mind was that it’s about time to get this done,” said Ryky Smith.
Penn State had a total of 14 hits in Wednesday’s matchup against Pittsburgh and tried to focus on the “small ball” aspect of the game by being aggressive on the base paths.
“We did some little things like reading the ball in the dirt to move us up into scoring position that we then scored on. We won on a hit and run and Ryky Smith didn’t try to do too much, just got the ball on the ground and didn’t try to do too much,” said Cooper.
Typically the Lions wear their white-on-white uniforms for home games, but they decided differently for the matchup against Pittsburgh by wearing blue jerseys from about four years ago.
“We had a group vote in our group message today and it was a team decision that we were going to switch things up and do something different and it worked. I assume they will make an appearance this weekend,” said Ryky Smith.
Penn State will take on Rutgers this weekend in its final home series of the season at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Mandy Bell is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.