UNIVERSITY PARK – The Penn State Nittany Lions (18-31, 5-17 Big Ten) came up just short in two low scoring affairs during Friday’s doubleheader against Michigan State (28-24, 10-13 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions lost game one by a final of 4-2 and the second game by a score of 4-1.
Penn State pulled off an unthinkable feat in the first game of the twinbill, as the Nittany Lions turned not one but two triple plays in the contest. The first came in the top of the fourth inning. Michigan State had runners on first and second and Blaise Salter up to bat. The Spartans runners broke with the pitch and Salter hit a line drive at Jim Haley (Upper Darby, Pa.) at shortstop. Haley caught the ball, stepped on second base and fired to J.J. White (Landsowne, Va.) at first to complete the Blue and White’s first triple play of the season.
Four innings later the Spartans and Nittany Lions found themselves in the exact same position except with Jimmy Pickens at the dish. The Spartans once again sent the runners in motion on the pitch and Pickens ripped a shot at Taylor Skerpon (Sayre, Pa.) at second, who tossed the ball to Haley at second for the second out who fired to White at first to complete the game’s second triple play.
Penn State joins elite company with the two triple plays. The Nittany Lions became just the second team in NCAA Division I baseball history to turn two triple plays in a game, joining Gonzaga, who pulled off the achievement against Washington State on April 4, 2006. To put the feat in perspective, two triple plays from one team has occurred once in the history of the MLB, with the Minnesota Twins accomplishing it against the Boston Red Sox on July 17, 1990.
Game One: The two starting pitchers dominated the opening innings of the first game of the doubleheader. Penn State’s Tim Dunn (Coto De Caza, Calif.) and Michigan State’s Mick VanVossen combined to allow just one hit through the first three innings of play, coming off the bat of the Nittany Lions’ Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.).
The Spartans threatened in the top of the fourth with men on first and second with no outs before Dunn got the Spartans to line into the previously mentioned triple play to end the threat.
The visitors threatened again in the fifth but this time Penn State was unable to escape unscathed. Michigan State had two of its first three batters reach and then both stole a base to give MSU runners on second and third with no outs. The Spartans’ Ryan Richardson came through for the visitors with a single up the middle to plate both runners and give Michigan State a 2-0 advantage.
The Spartans tacked on another run in the sixth stanza off a two-out, solo home run from Jimmy Pickens to increase their lead to 3-0 and then added a run in the top of the seventh to push their lead to four runs.
In the top of the eighth inning the Nittany Lions turned the second of their two triple plays to get out of a jam and keep the score within reach.
The Penn State offense mounted a valiant comeback attempt in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Spartans a scare. Designated hitter Greg Guers (Langhorne, Pa.) led off the frame with a solo home run over the right field wall to cut the lead to three runs. The blast was his second of the season, tying the sophomore for the team lead. The Blue and White then proceeded to load the bases with no outs, bringing the go-ahead run to the dish. Ryky Smith (York, Pa.) then hit a sacrifice fly to score Zach Ell (Plains, Pa.) to cut the lead to two runs at 4-2. Unfortunately that was as close as Penn State would get, as the next two batters flied out to center field to end the game.
Game Two: The Nittany Lions got off to a good start in game two of the doubleheader, as PSU was the first to get on the scoreboard with a run in the second inning. White started the inning with a single through the middle of the infield and then came around to score off Smith’s two-out double to the gap in left center to put the Blue and White on top early by a score of 1-0.
Unfortunately for Penn State, the lead was short lived, as Michigan State responded with three runs of its own in the top of the third to grab a two run lead at 3-1. The first four Spartan hitters recorded base knocks to begin the inning, including Salter’s single up the middle that scored two and gave the visitors the lead.
Michigan State’s starter, Justin Alleman, then settled in and shut down the Nittany Lion offense. Alleman pitched seven innings on the evening, allowing just the one run in the second inning off four hits and no walks while striking out five.
The Spartans added an insurance run in the top of the fifth that was set up by a Penn State error. Salter reached on the error and advanced to third as the Nittany Lions tracked down the errant throw. The junior then came around to score off a Ryan Krill single to make the score 4-1.
Penn State was unable to get anything going from the offensive side in the final innings and went on to drop game two by a final of 4-1.
The Blue and White return to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Saturday to take on the Spartans for Penn State’s season finale, which is also Senior Day. The game is scheduled to start at noon with the Senior Day ceremony to follow.
--Penn State Athletic Communications
(Video Courtesy: GoPSUSports)