The Nittany Lions cut the deficit to three runs in the bottom of the eighth, courtesy of an Alex Farkes (Boston, Mass.) single followed by an RBI double from James Coates (Girard, Ohio). The one run set up a bottom of the ninth rally that nearly saw Penn State complete the comeback bid.
Penn State came agonizingly close to tying or winning the game in the final frame. The Blue and White loaded the bases with no outs to set the stage for the dramatic finish. The Lions then drew within two runs off a fielder’s choice from Zach Ell (Plains, Pa.) to score Jim Haley (Upper Darby, Pa.). With runners on the corners Ryan Richter (Wayne, Pa.) singled to left field to make it a one-run game at 7-6 and put the winning run in scoring position at second base with one out. Tyler Kendall (Boynton Beach, Fla.) then hit a sharp ground ball up the middle which Illinois used to turn a double play to end the game and secure the series sweep.
Offensively the Nittany Lions had a strong showing at the plate, collecting 14 base hits. Richter led the charge with a career-high three hits to drive in and score a run. Another Penn State standout was Coates, who finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs.
Other members of the Blue and White to record multi-hit games were Haley, Farkes and Taylor Skerpon (Sayre, Pa.) as the trio combined to go 6-for-11 with three runs scored and one run driven in.
Illinois began the game by threatening to score in the top of the first by loading the bases with two outs. Starting pitcher Ian Parvin (Irvine, Calif.) got out of the inning with a groundout to first base.
The Nittany Lions capitalized on their scoring opportunity in the bottom of the first to plate the game’s opening run. With one out and runners on the corners, Haley singled through the middle of the infield to score Coates and put the Lions on top 1-0.
Illinois immediately responded in the top of the second, scoring two runs of its own to take a 2-1 lead. The Fighting Illini used three hits, a double and two singles, to take the one-run lead.
Over the next two innings Illinois added to its lead, scoring a run in the third and then plating three runs in the top of the fourth to open up a five-run lead at 6-1. In the three-run fourth the Fighting Illini received an RBI double from David Kerian followed by back-to-back sacrifice flies to cap off the inning.
The Nittany Lions got two runs back in the bottom of the fourth to cut Illinois’ lead to three runs at 6-3. Coates started the scoring by lifting a sacrifice fly to right field to score Ell. Greg Guers (Langhorne, Pa.) followed with a single up the middle to score Richter for the second run of the frame.
The Fighting Illini scored another insurance run in the fifth, their fourth-straight inning of scoring at least one run, to push their lead back up to four runs to make the score 7-3.
Neither team managed to score a run in the sixth or seventh stanzas, setting the stage for the aforementioned Penn State comeback attempt.
Penn State is back in action on Tuesday, as the squad travels to Kent State to play a non-conference game with the Golden Flashes. The game is slated to start at 6 p.m.
---PSU Athletic Communications
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