May 17, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Penn State first baseman Jordan Steranka hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning to push the Nittany Lions past Michigan State, 3-2, Thursday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium.
The loss drops MSU to 34-18 overall on the season and 12-10 in the Big Ten, while Penn State improves to 28-24 (14-8).
In his final career home start, senior co-captain Tony Bucciferro struck out nine and only allowed one run on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He exited the game in the top of the seventh with MSU in front, 2-1, and runners on first and second with two outs.
Spartan reliever Jeff Kinley got out of the jam by getting Sean Deegan to line out back to the mound, but Kinley ran into trouble in the eighth.
PSU third baseman Joey DeBernardis hit a one-out double to right field, which was then followed by Steranka's game-winning homer that put the Nittany Lions in front for good. Steranka, who now has 11 homers this season, finished the game 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Penn State starter Joe Kurrasch, who gave up two runs on nine hits, left the game after seventh inning, giving way to Greg Welsh. Although Joel Fisher reached on a two-out single in the eighth, the Spartans couldn't move him into scoring position, and PSU closer Dave Walkling retired Michigan State in order in the ninth to earn his sixth save.
Kurrasch (4-2) flirted with danger nearly the entire game, but got himself out of jams by getting the Spartans to ground into three double plays. Michigan State left a total of 10 men on base.
In the first, the Spartans took an early 1-0 lead, but the damage could have been much worse. After the first three batters reached to load the bases, Torsten Boss grounded into a double play that brought the run home from third.
It looked like one run was all Bucciferro would need early on, as he struck out six of his first nine batters.
The Spartans tacked on another run in the fifth to make it 2-0. With two outs and nobody on base, Ryan Jones, Justin Scanlon and Jordan Keur connected on three straight singles to push a run across, capped by Keur's double down the left-field line on a 0-2 pitch.
Penn State got on the board in the sixth, but was limited to just one run as Spartan right fielder John Martinez threw out Steve Snyder at the plate on a Steranka single. The hit did score Deegan from third to cut the MSU lead to 2-1.
Michigan State had another golden opportunity to score in the bottom half of the sixth by loading the bases with just one out, but again fell victim to the double play to come up empty.
MSU's last chance to extend its lead arrived in the bottom of the seventh. Jones led off the inning with a single, but Kurrasch induced his third double play of the game to quickly clear the bases with two outs. The Spartans weren't done, however, as Keur walked and Boss singled to put runners on first and third. Unfortunately for MSU, a groundout ended the inning, and it was the last time the Spartans would put a runner in scoring position.
Four players posted multi-hit games for Michigan State, including Scanlon, Keur, Martinez and Fisher. MSU had 10 hits overall.
Kinley (6-4) took the loss for MSU after surrendering two runs on two hits in 2/3 of an inning.
Game two of the series is set for Friday at 3:05 p.m. at McLane Baseball Stadium.
Six of MSU's 10 losses in Big Ten play have been by just one run, and two others were by two runs . . . MSU is 9-10 in one-run games this season . . . Bucciferro now has 85 strikeouts this season, which moved him into the MSU single-season Top 10 list . . . he struck out nine batters in a game on two other occasions this season (vs. Ohio State on March 31; vs. Iowa on May 11) . . . Bucciferro's single-game career high is 10 strikeouts (vs. Cincinnati on March 16) . . . Bucciferro is also at 98.0 innings pitched for the year, which is fourth most in a Spartan season.