Penn State Baseball Comes up a Run Short at Kent State

KENT, Ohio – Penn State had the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the top of the ninth, but Kent State was able to hang on for 10-9 victory in non-conference baseball action Wednesday night in Schoonover Stadium.

(Photo courtesy of Penn State Athletics)

Penn State (23-15) saw a six-game winning streak and a 14-game midweek winning streak come to an end with the loss. It was Kent State (27-10) that had last defeated the Nittany Lions during the week on April 1, 2015.

It was a back-and-forth contest with Penn State leaping out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning before Kent State rallied for a four-run lead by the end of the fifth inning. The Nittany Lions scored two runs each in the sixth and seventh innings to tie it, but KSU answered with a run each in the seventh and eighth for a 10-8 lead. The Lions got one run back in the ninth but were unable to get the tying run across to extend the game.

The Lions totaled 13 hits with three posting three-hit games. Third baseman Jim Haley (Upper Darby, Pa.) went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, while shortstop Conlin Hughes (Holly Springs, N.C.) and second baseman Christian Helsel (Altoona, Pa.) also had three hits each. Hughes walked in the ninth and scored twice, and left fielder Greg Guers (Langhorne, Pa,), the reigning NCBWA National Hitter of the Week, extended his hitting streak to seven with a two-RBI double in the first.

Kent State totaled 15 hits, led by first baseman Conner Simonetti who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, including a solo home run in the eighth inning that proved to be the difference, while catcher Pete Schuler went 3-for-4 with two runs.

Penn State opened with a three-run first inning. Centerfielder James Coates (Girard, Ohio) reached on catcher’s interference and Haley singled to start the game, and Guers doubled to right-center to score both. Guers was then sacrificed to third base, allowing him to score on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Willie Burger (Lancaster, Pa.)

LHP Nick Hedge (Winnetka, Ill.) faced the minimum in the first after a double play, but allowed two runs each in the second and third innings. Simonetti accounted for both runs in the second, hitting an RBI-triple and then scoring on a sacrifice fly. The Golden Flashes took advantage of a two-out error in the third to tie the game and second baseman Dom Iero singled up the middle for the go-ahead run and 4-3 lead.

Kent State added three more runs in the fourth for a 7-4 advantage, Centerfielder Mason Mamarella started the scoring with an RBI-double. After a pitching change, designated hitter Zarley Zalewski added an RBI-single and later scored from third on a wild pitch.

The Nittany Lions got one run back in the top of the fifth, as Helsel and Haley singled and one run scored on a two-out error. Kent State restored its four-run advantage in the bottom half though on an RBI-single by left fielder Reilly Hawkins.

Penn State halved the deficit to 8-6 the very next frame, as Haley drove in two with the bases loaded with a single to centerfield. Guers nearly put the Lions ahead with a deep fly to right, but it was caught against the wall for the final out.

The Lions rallied with two outs in the seventh, as pinch-hitter Connor Klemann (Royersford, Pa.) hit an RBI-single and Helsel hit a pop-up lost in the lights to tie the game at 8-8.

However, an RBI-single by right fielder Luke Burch in the eighth drove in the go-ahead run for Kent State, and Simonetti’s home run in the ninth resulted in a 10-8 lead.
Penn State loaded the bases in the ninth and got one across on a passed ball, but RHP Zach Willeman (9) was able to close the game out for the save.

LHP Zach Spangler (3-0) earned the win 1 1/3 innings of relief, allowing a hit and striking out two. LHP Marko Boricich (Chicago, Ill.) (0-1) suffered the loss in 3 1/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk with three strikeouts.

Penn State will return to Big Ten play Friday at Rutgers, opening a three-game series at 3 p.m.

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