Walk-Off Woes; Hoosiers Drop 10-Inning Affair at PSU
March 24, 2012
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Chad Clark drilled a double down the right field line in the top of the ninth to drive in Will Nolden and force extra innings in game two at Penn State (5-15, 1-1 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions countered in the subsequent frame though, taking the game 4-3 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th.
Indiana (9-14, 1-1) had won five of its last seven games entering Saturday's contest and had the momentum on its side after the ninth-inning tally. Right-handed relievers Luke Harrison and Jonny Hoffman allowed the Hoosiers to mount the small comeback, combining to go 6.1 innings with just two hits and an unearned run.
Four different Hoosiers recorded a pair of hits in the ball game, a quartet that included: Chad Clark, Kyle Schwarber, Sam Travis and Chris Sujka. Travis extended his current hitting streak to 10 games, and has now reached base in all 22 games of his young career.
Small ball was the name of the game for IU, converting on four sacrifice bunts and two sac flies. Everyone got involved, too, as six different players performed the sacrifices. Another key to Indiana having a chance in the end was the pitching staff's ability to lock it down and strand more than a handful of PSU runners in scoring position (11 runners in total).
Drew Leininger was the first to limit the damage, doing so with an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the first. Three of the first four PSU batters singled, followed by a walk, to load the bases with just one out. The Hoosiers were able to turn the twin killing, however, and hold Penn State to a lone tally.
It was Harrison's turn get his team out of a jam in the second. With a second run already plated and the bases loaded for PSU, Harrison emerged from the pen and struck at the first batter he faced to send the trio of baserunners back to the dugout unhappy.
Clark opened the top of the third with a long at-bat, fouling off several pitches before ultimately placing a single into center field. Schwarber followed with another single. Both runners then advanced into scoring position thanks to a Dillon Dooney sac bunt. Clark sprinted the final 90 feet to home when Travis lifted a sac fly into left field.
Just as Harrison did back in the second stanza, Hoffman came on in the fourth to close the door on a PSU scoring threat. Hoffman needed just one pitch to induce a fly ball and leave a fifth Nittany Lion in scoring position.
Clinching onto a 2-1 lead, Penn State's defense made a pair of potentially game-saving plays in the bottom of the fifth. First was a diving play by centerfielder Steve Snyder, robbing Clark of a lead-off double in the right-center field gap. Snyder was one-upped by teammate Luis Montesinos later in the inning when the second baseman went completely horizontal to snag a well-struck chopper beyond the bag, jumping to his feet quickly and gunning out Travis at first.
In a bit of déjà vu, Penn State was able to scrape across a lone run in the seventh before Hoffman was able to strand three more Nittany Lions.
With just three outs remaining after a scoreless eighth, Nolden jumpstarted the ninth by crushing a full-count offering into center field for a single. A DeMuth sac bunt followed, setting the stage for Clark; who didn't disappoint. He slapped a ball skipping directly over the top of the first base bag and ending up in the PSU bullpen, a double scoring Nolden and knotting the score at 3-3. a
Montesinos then fisted a looper into center to lead off the bottom of the 10th. It was Penn State's turn for some small ball, laying down a sac bunt of their own and pushing Montesinos into scoring position. Elliot Searer, batting sub-.150 on the year, stepped into the box next and delivered a walk-off single for the 4-3 winner.
The series rubber game is scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday.
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