Nittany Lions Drop Series Finale to NJIT
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A seven-run seventh inning from NJIT spoiled Penn State’s chances at a series sweep as the Highlanders (8-7) outlasted the Nittany Lions (6-9), 8-6, on Sunday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Penn State, who swept both games of a doubleheader yesterday, looked well on its way to a sweep as Dante Biasi was cruising through six innings on the mound, surrendering only one hit and one walk while striking out seven.
“I felt good,” Biasi said. “We worked on my secondary stuff all week, so I was just able to throw those for strikes and that kind of made it easier on myself. We just got after it and competed out there.”
Biasi, who came into the game with a 10.58 ERA, threw 86 pitches in his six innings, easily the longest outing of his season. Recently getting over an arm injury, Biasi had his most confident outing in some time.
“My arm feels great, there’s nothing really wrong there,” Biasi said. “It’s just about getting experience. It’s my first time facing college hitters so I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now. But there’s still a lot to work on and get better by the end of the season.”
On the other side, NJIT starter Tyler Stafflinger was going toe-to-toe with Biasi, pitching four perfect innings before giving up one hit and two runs combined in the fifth and sixth innings.
However, the game shifted in the seventh inning, as both teams pulled their starters and struggled to string outs together.
Marko Boricich came on in relief of Biasi to start the top of the seventh and allowed four straight batters to reach including a hit-by-pitch to push in a run. Jake Pilewicz came in after but faced only one two batters before being taken out in the middle of an at-bat. Mason Mellott came in to replace him but recorded only one out while giving up five hits.
Conor Larkin finally closed the door on the top half of the inning, but not before the Highlanders had scored seven runs to take a 7-2 lead.
Penn State didn’t go quietly, as the Nittany Lions put their first three batters on in the bottom of the seventh off NJIT reliever Johnny Malatesta.
Then, after a strikeout, Ryan Sloniger delivered a grand slam to pull the Nittany Lions within one and still only one out in the inning.
“I knew they didn’t have a base open, so they were going to come right at me,” Sloniger said. “I was ahead in the count, not really trying to do too much, and I got a fastball over the plate. I got my swing off, and it was a pretty good swing.”
It was Sloniger’s third homer of the season, tying him for the team lead. The four RBIs brought his team-leading total to 17.
Unfortunately for Penn State, NJIT reliever Tommy Derer came in and shut the door on the Nittany Lions, giving up no baserunners in the final 2.1 innings of the game.
Larkin pitched the rest of the game for Penn State, surrendering only one run on a wild pitch in the ninth inning.
Stafflinger picked up the win, while Boricich was tacked with the loss and Derer secured the save.
The Nittany Lions will be back at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Tuesday as they will face the Bucknell Bison.
Tom Shively is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.