Strong pitching and defense led Penn State to a 2-1 victory over Elon in the baseball season opener for both teams Friday at Latham Park.
The three-game series continues Saturday at 11 a.m. Originally scheduled for 2 p.m., the game time was moved up three hours due to the threat of inclement weather. The series finale is set for 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
RHP Justin Hagenman (Vorhees, N.J.) (1-0) struck out seven in five innings for Penn State (1-0), limiting Elon (0-1) to four hits and two walks, while EHP Eric Mock (Shillington, Pa.) (1) struck out all three batters he in the ninth for his first career save. The Lions’ bullpen retired the last eight batters of the game.
Junior catcher Ryan Sloniger (Punxsutawney, Pa.) and redshirt sophomore Connor Klemann (Royersford, Pa.) drove in the Nittany Lions’ runs with a solo home run and RBI-single, respectively, and Klemann accounted for two of Penn State’s four hits.
The game was scoreless through the first three innings until Sloniger lifted a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall in the fourth. Penn State extended its lead to 2-0 in the top of the sixth inning, taking advantage of a hit batter and a walk as Klemann drove a base hit into center field, allowing junior first baseman Shea Sbranti (Oakely, Calif.) to score from second.
Hagenman faced just one over the minimum in the first four innings before Elon loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but Hagenman earned his seventh strikeout of the afternoon to keep the Phoenix off the board.
Elon stranded two more in the sixth facing Penn State LHP Marko Boricich (Chicago, Ill.) before loading the bases again in the seventh. After an infield fly for the first out of the inning, Elon’s Joe Satterfield singled to right field to drive in one. RHP Nick Distasio (Oley, Pa.) battled back to strike out the next batter and then second baseman Conlin Hughes (Holly Springs, N.C.) made a diving stop to keep a batted ball in the infield, making the toss to first to end the inning.
Distasio struck out all three batters in the eighth, and Mock did the same in the ninth for his first career save.
Penn State pitchers totaled 15 strikeouts, with Hagenman tallying the first seven, Boricich tallying one, Distasio tallying four in two innings and Mock’s three. The Lions were not immune to strikeouts at the plate themselves though, as Elon starter RHP George Kirby (0-1) struck out 11 in five innings, allowing one run on two hits and three walks, while RHP Brandon Justice recorded five over the last 3 2/3 innings.
Penn State’s home opener is set for Wednesday, March 14. Season, flex and single-game tickets are available online at GoPSUsports.com or by calling the Medlar Field at Lubrano Park ticket office at 814-272-1711.
Notes: Two new Nittany Lions started for Penn State – junior Shea Sbranti (first base) and freshman Curtis Robison (designated hitter) – and both reached base in their first plate appearances tallying a single and walk, respectively … Freshman Mac Hippenhammer made his debut as a pinch runner in the top of the eighth inning, and freshman Tommy Gibson made his debut when he replaced Hippenhammer in the lineup in the bottom half of the eighth, playing third base, as neither recorded a plate appearance … The win is Penn State’s first in a season opener since 2014, snapping a three-game skid.
The Penn State softball team was unable to pick up a win on day one of the Big Ten / ACC Challenge, falling to Virginia Tech 1-0 and Duke 7-5 Friday, Feb. 16.
Two Nittany Lions made their first appearances donning the Blue and White as Haley Vallejos (Chandler, Ariz.) came in as a sub in right field against Virginia Tech before earning the start against Duke, while senior Ashton Mensinger (Nescopeck, Pa.) came on in relief in the circle against both the Hokies and the Blue Devils.
Junior Paige Johnson (Clarksville, Tenn.) tallied her first hits as a Nittany Lions with a single up the middle against Va. Tech before hitting a single, knocking in one run and scoring once against Duke.
Junior Toni Polk (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) led all hitters on the day with three base knocks, lacing two against Duke and driving in one run. Also having a multi-hit day for the Nittany Lions was junior Tori Dubois (Mt. Vernon, N.H.), who had two hits and one RBI against the Blue Devils.
Senior hurler Jessica Cummings (Owings, Md.) got the nod in both games, taking the loss in game one, while Madison Shaffer (New Castle, Pa.) suffered the loss in game two, throwing 1.1 innings. Cummings went four innings in game one, giving up just two hits and one unearned run, while striking out five. Finally, Mensinger threw 3.1 innings for the Blue and White.
Game One: Virginia Tech 1, Penn State 0
The Nittany Lions loaded the bases in the top of the first inning using two walks and the first hit in Duke Softball Stadium history from Polk, but all three runners were left stranded.
After striking out, Olivia Lattin reached first on a wild pitch and came around to score in the bottom of the first on a single up the middle to take the early 1-0 lead over the Blue and White.
Cummings and the Penn State defense worked its way out of a jam when the Hokies loaded the bases in the bottom of the third inning using a foul ball pop up to get out of the inning unscathed.
Johnson secured her first hit as a Nittany Lion in the top of the fourth inning and made her way to third on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out, but the Blue and White were unable to plate her as it continued to trail 1-0.
Penn State could not string a group of hits together in the remaining innings, falling 1-0 to the Hokies.
Game Two: Duke 7, Penn State 5
Penn State struck early against the Blue Devils when Dubois singled through the right side of the infield and touched home on a Johson double into the left center field gap. The Blue and White extended its lead to 2-0 as Dani Fey (Bangor, Pa.) dug in and laced the third-straight single of the inning up the middle to score Dubois.
The Blue and White continued to build on its lead in the top of the third inning when a Duke error proved to be costly and allowed Penn State to take a 3-0 lead with no outs. The Nittany Lions tacked on two final runs in the top of the third with a double from Dubois and a single from Polk to extend the lead to 5-0 heading into the fourth inning.
Duke came within four in the bottom of the third inning as a single found its way up the middle. The Blue Devils continued to close the gap on the Nittany Lions in the bottom of the fourth inning with a two-run home run over the center field wall to bring Duke within two, 5-3, and forcing a Penn State pitching change. Shaffer came on in relief and closed out the inning before any further runs would cross the plate, allowing the Nittany Lions to maintain a 5-3 lead.
The Blue Devils capitalized on a Penn State error in the bottom of the fifth inning, plating three unearned runs to take the 6-5 advantage with two innings left to play. Duke added one final security run in the bottom of the sixth inning to go up 7-5 and force the second Penn State pitching change of the game. Mensinger and the defense secured the final out of the inning as the Nittany Lions headed into the final inning of play trailing by two.
Penn State battled in the top of the seventh inning, putting runners on first and second with two outs before a single down the first base line turned into a pickle play between second and third. The Blue Devils secured the final out of the inning as Penn State fell 7-5 in game two of the day.
Penn State will square up with Duke for the second time Saturday, Feb. 17 at 9:30 a.m.