Fundamental mistakes have plagued the Penn State baseball team throughout the season.
Steven Hill threw seven solid innings in Saturday's loss to the Boilermakers.
The story was no different on Sunday, as the Nittany Lions (5-18, 0-6 Big Ten) committed several game-changing mistakes, including three errors, en route to a 7-5 loss to Purdue at Medlar Field. The Boilermakers (10-14, 3-3 Big Ten) swept the three-game series.
“When you go back and figure it out, there’s been an error and a walk involved in just about every inning for an opponent scoring runs,” said Penn State head coach Robbie Wine.
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, the Nittany Lions had a fundamental mishap in the top of the third. Purdue’s Brandon Kreig reached on an infield single and moved to third on a throwing error from a pickoff attempt by Penn State’s starting pitcher Greg Welsh. The next batter, Jake Hansen, drove in Kreig on a groundout to first to cut the Penn State lead to one.
“We were just trying to get a read on hit-and-run or if he was bunting, and just threw it away,” Wine said.
With the help of more Penn State mistakes, Purdue added two runs in each of the next two innings to take a 5-2 lead.
In the fourth, Purdue’s Kyle Wood reached second on a throwing error by third baseman Tyler Kendall. Josh Estill and Kyle Johnson each followed up with singles to plate Wood.
Then, in the fifth, with Wood on third and Jack Picchiotti on first, Purdue forced the issue. Picchiotti left to steal second, distracting the Penn State defense as Wood stole home.
In the bottom of the inning, for a moment, it looked as if Penn State would take control of the game and earn its first home win of the season. Steve Snyder tripled down the right field line, which was followed by a James Coates walk to give the Nittany Lions runners on first and third.
After an Elliot Searer strikeout, J.J. White worked a walk to load the bases. With two outs, Luis Montesinos delivered a line-drive base hit to right field, scoring Snyder and Coates.
Following Montesinos, a Ryky Smith grounder to short scored White on a throwing error by Hansen, to tie the score at 5-5.
In the top of the eighth, the Nittany Lions gave the lead back, again on an error. With runners on second and third and two outs, Hansen laid down a bunt along the first base line. Welsh fielded and fired past Smith covering first, resulting in two Purdue runs and a 7-5 lead that would hold true the rest of the way.
Overshadowed by the loss was the impressive pitching performance of Welsh, who went eight innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts on 142 pitches. However, Welsh’s errors in the field proved to be the deciding factor.
“Defensively you can’t give them all that,” said Wine of his team’s mistakes. “That’s a lot of free base runners. You can’t overcome stuff like that continually.”
Friday: In the first game of a three-game set with Purdue, and the Big Ten home opener, the Nittany Lions lost 6-1. Penn State took an early lead in the bottom of the first inning, when J.C. Coban knocked in Searer on an infield hit to the right side.
However Penn State’s lead was short-lived. The Nittany Lions were held scoreless the rest of the way as Purdue’s Jordan Minch settled in on the mound striking out five in eight innings of work. Purdue scored six unanswered as Penn State’s T.J. Jann took the loss.
Saturday: Penn State went into the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-2, when Montesinos, who was originally given the day off, stepped-up to pinch-hit. Montesinos laced a base hit to left scoring two and tying the game at 4.
In the 10th inning, Purdue answered with a run and held the Nittany Lions at bay to seal the 5-4 win.
In a tough loss, there was some good to take from the afternoon. Steven Hill went seven innings, allowing three earned runs, and Smith had a breakout performance, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Also Penn State was able to battle back led by Montesinos, who performed well all weekend, totaling four RBIs.
“I was really happy with the way we came back and scored those two runs," said Wine. "We could have rolled over, but we didn't. We're fighting and that's what we're made of. That's the kind of team we are."
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