Penn State Wins in Ninth Inning Comeback over UMass Lowell
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State was able to hold on at Medlar Field in an exciting 7-6 win over UMass Lowell after Penn State blew a 6-3 lead in the top of the ninth inning.
Penn State came into today’s game with a record of 11-3, following a 3-1 win victory over UMass Lowell just the day before.
Similar to yesterday’s game was the dominant pitching by Penn State, as Bailey Dees pitched a great game. He went 6.2 innings pitched and allowed only three runs to go along with an impressive 10 strikeouts.
“Bailey’s been really good for us,” Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. “I’m proud of him.”
The way Dees was pitching set the tone for this Penn State team. In the third inning, freshman third basemen Justin Williams hit his first career home run that sent fellow freshman Ryan Ford home to give the Nittany Lions an early 2-0 lead.
"It felt great, it felt really nice, it’s something to be really happy about,” Justin Williams said after the game. “My approach to that at-bat was right-center because I knew that he was an overpowering pitcher.”
Williams had knowledge of the pitching style of UMass Lowell pitcher Nick Rand from other players.
“I talked to batters that had previously faced him and they said he’s been putting his fastball outside, so sit outside and be ready for it," Williams said.
Dees' dominating pitching would continue until the top of the fifth inning when UMass Lowell catcher Ciaran Devenny knocked in two runs to tie the game up. The Nittany Lions responded in a big way, however, scoring a combined four runs in both the fifth and sixth inning.
However, in the seventh inning, the momentum of the game began to change. After Dees walked two consecutive batters, his day would come to an end.
With two outs, in came Tyler Shingledecker, who had a favorable matchup, but he walked a UML batter which got him immediately pulled for sophomore reliever Kyle Virbitsky. Virbitsky was able to come in and get out of the jam, for the most part, as a run was still surrendered to make it 6-3 Nittany Lions.
Things were just getting started for UMass Lowell. After a sleepy eighth inning, the top of ninth was anything but sleepy. With two outs and no one on, the UML batter hit a ground ball right to second basemen Gavin Homer, but Homer made a horrible throw to first that caused first basemen Parker Hendershot to come off the bag.
This mistake snowballed into chaos. Then UML first basemen Steve Passatempo hit a double, putting a man on second and third. Cam Climo of UML was then walked by Virbitsky to load the bases.
With the bases loaded and a struggling Virbitsky, UML designated hitter Andrew Roden was able to get one through the gap and score the runner from third, putting runners in scoring position and making it now 6-4. Then, Oscar Marchena hit a routine groundball to Penn State shortstop Conlin Hughes, who threw an errant ball pass first base which allowed one runner to score. The throw home got away, allowing the game-tying run to score.
At this point, it seemed that Virbitsky, who was struggling to throw strikes the whole inning, would be pulled.
“I thought he was doing a good job,” Cooper said about Virbitsky. “It’s like you can hit three line drives at somebody and you’re 0-3… I wouldn’t think about pinch hitting that guy.” Luckily for the Nittany Lions, Virbitsky was able to get out of the inning.
Then in the bottom of the ninth inning with one out, PSU right fielder Kris Kremer hit a perfect shot to right center and made it all the way to third for a triple. However, in the next at-bat, catcher Jacob Padilla, went down looking.
With two outs and a runner on third, Mason Nadeau stepped up to the plate and hit a pop-up to left field. However, the UMass Lowell outfield missed judged the ball, allowing it to drop and score the game-winning run.
“It was very relieving,” Williams said while being asked what he thought after watching Nadeau’s hit drop in play. “You just got to put the ball in play and hope it works out for you, and it did for us today.”
It wasn’t just the players who felt relieved as the coaches did too.
“I almost had a heart attack,” Cooper said. “I don’t want to remember any of that ninth inning except for Mason’s hit.”
Penn State takes on UMass Lowell again on Sunday in the series finale starting at 12 p.m.
Mitch Broder is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.