A double play is a pitcher’s best friend, but John Walter may have found something better.
Though Walter faced a couple jams in the Penn State’s 3-1 win over Illinois, none was bigger than in the top of the second.
Two consecutive hits led off the inning, but a slow roller to first baseman Joey DeBernardis turned into a triple play when both runners got too aggressive after reaching second and third.
After getting out of the inning unharmed, Walter said he felt a sense of relief, which he carried through his complete game victory.
“The triple play was awesome. It definitely jacked me up a little bit,” Walter said.
Walter threw only 107 pitches in the game, after which he said he hadn’t even begun to feel run down in the ninth inning.
“It’s my first nine-inning complete game, and it felt really good,” Walter said. ”I have a flexible arm, I can just take that many pitches, I guess.”
Walter said he was feeling good no matter what he threw, but he especially took advantage of his breaking pitches.
“The curveball was working today. Finally, I got that down,” Walter said. “I’ve been working on it all season. Against N.C. State, I didn’t throw one curveball for a strike. Now I’m just flipping it over for first pitch strikes whenever I want, really.”
Though the Nittany Lions put together only five hits, the team took advantage of opportunities when it could.
In the first inning, Sean Deegan’s double could have been wasted. Instead, Deegan advanced to third on Montesino’s dropped strikeout and scored on an RBI groundout by Jordan Steranka – the only Penn State RBI in the game.
And when Steranka reached in the eighth inning on a ball that went off first baseman Matt Dittman’s glove, Steranka stretched the play into a two-base error before Steranka advanced to third base on a 6-3 putout, and he scored on a passed ball.
In addition to the passed ball, the Lions scored once on a wild pitch. Smaller situations such as those are something coach Robbie Wine said was what the team had to have working for it in a pitcher’s duel.
“There’s some luck involved in this game,” Wine said. “In college baseball, momentum is everything. Yesterday, we had the momentum, they took it right back and slowly kept it. That swings you around.”
DeBernardis said the team’s ability to get on base has been one of the contributing factors to its ability to stay in games in which hits aren’t coming easily.
“Any time you get on base, a walk is as good as a single,” DeBernardis said. “If you’re on base, things can happen. You can steal a base or there can be a passed ball and then you’re in scoring position.”
Following a loss in the first game of the series on Friday, Wine said it was exciting to see his team rebound.
Wine said the team looks like its in a good position to win the series Sunday during the team’s 1:05 p.m. game with Heath Johnson getting the start, as long as the players keep their heads in the game.
“[Friday] was a scary game, scoring six runs early. Now it’s like we’re trying to finish the game instead of trying to keep playing the game,” Wine said. “In close games, for some reason, guys just stay focused and keep trying to play the game. For our guys to come back and do that was pretty impressive.”