May 18, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - For the second straight day, Penn State hit a game-winning home run in the late innings to defeat the Michigan State baseball team.
With the score tied at 5 in the top of the ninth on Friday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium, Nittany Lion third baseman Joey DeBernardis blasted a solo shot off Spartan closer Tony Wieber well past the left-field fence, propelling the Nittany Lions to a 6-5 win.
In the opening game of the series, Jordan Steranka delivered a two-run homer in the eighth inning that erased MSU's 2-1 lead in the 3-2 Penn State victory.
The loss drops MSU to 34-19 overall and 12-11 in the Big Ten. It marked MSU's seventh one-run defeat in conference play.
Minnesota's loss to Illinois last night in Champaign, Ill., however, clinched a spot in next week's Big Ten Tournament for the Spartans. The top six teams in the regular-season standings advance to the conference tournament, with the top two teams receiving byes.
"The bottom line is that we have to execute," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "You look at their ballclub, they execute when they have a chance. Their best guys came through in the clutch when they needed to."
The Spartans appeared on their way to a dramatic comeback victory after scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 5-4 lead. Penn State starter Steven Hill, who was cruising through six innings after scattering six hits and allowing just one run, was lifted in the seventh - and the Spartans immediately took advantage.
MSU's offense finally came to life with five consecutive hits, led by pinch hitter John Martinez's one-out, infield single against lefty Casey Kulina. Ryan Jones followed with a single to put runners on first and third. Another pinch hitter, Blaise Salter, came through with a clutch two-run double to right-center field, plating both Martinez and Jones.
Penn State then made the change to another lefty, Greg Welsh, but the results were the same, as Jordan Keur and Torsten Boss produced back-to-back RBI singles to push MSU on top, 5-4. Boss eventually reached second on a wild pitch, but was stranded in scoring position following two straight groundouts.
The inability to score an insurance run would haunt the Spartans, as Penn State (29-24, 15-8) tied the game in the top of the eighth. Steve Snyder, who went 3-for-4, led off the frame with a double against reliever Trey Popp, stole third, and tied it at 5 on a sacrifice fly.
Following DeBernardis' homer in the top of the ninth, MSU threatened to score in the bottom half of the ninth off Nittany Lion closer Dave Walkling.
Salter led off with a walk, and after a failed sacrifice bunt attempt, Keur singled to center to put runners on first and second with no outs. Boss then bunted the runners over to second and third, setting the stage for Justin Scanlon.
With a base open, Penn State elected to pitch to Scanlon, and he hit a hard grounder back to Walkling at the mound. Walkling knocked the ball down and had just enough time to get pinch runner Jeff Kinley out at the plate.
Ryan Krill - who hit his first career home run at McLane Baseball Stadium in the fifth with a shot to right field - stepped in for MSU with runners on first and third and two outs, and although he hit a liner to center field, it was right at Snyder, who hauled it in for the final out of the game.
Wieber (2-1) suffered his first career loss as a Spartan, while Cody Lewis earned the win after pitching a scoreless eighth inning. Walking picked up his seventh save.
Spartan starter Andrew Waszak gave up four runs and 10 hits - seven with two outs - in the no decision.
Penn State took an early lead with two runs in the top of the first after collecting three hits and two walks, all with two outs. In the sixth, the Nittany Lions again scored with two outs as Sean Deegan crushed a two-run homer to right- center.
The Spartans had 12 hits in the game, led by three hits from Keur and two apiece by Boss and Krill.
MSU will host Penn State in the 2012 home finale on Saturday at 12:05 p.m.; senior day festivities will begin at 11:40 a.m. The game is being televised on BTN.