It was just another Sunday of Big Ten baseball.
In a back-and-forth game that spanned a little more than three hours and saw 19 combined runs on 25 total hits, the Penn State baseball team grinded its way to a 10-9 win vs. Ohio State. The Nittany Lions (24-13, 7-5 Big Ten) used several late-inning rallies to finally put away the Buckeyes (16-16, 6-6) and secure a critical series win after splitting a doubleheader Saturday.
“That was a tough game, a typical Sunday game. The bullpens are thin, especially after a doubleheader,” Penn State coach Robbie Wine said. “We didn’t have [reliever Heath] Johnson, they didn’t have a couple of their guys, I thought they might have been set up a little bit better than us, winning the first game [Saturday], but it was a battle of bullpens and our guys stepped up and did the job.”
Penn State used four pitchers while Ohio State sent six different hurlers to the mound over the course of the game. Early on, Penn State looked to be in control after scoring two runs in the first inning and having starter Mike Franklin post three scoreless innings.
But Franklin staggered in the fourth inning, giving up two runs then worked into a jam in the fifth, ending his day after giving up five runs, four earned. The Buckeyes posted a three-spot in the fifth, going up 5-2, but the Lions came right back with three runs starting in the bottom of the inning, beginning a string of seven consecutive half-innings with at least one run scored.
The Lions again saw plenty of production from a new-look lineup spearheaded by junior first baseman Joey DeBernardis hitting out of the third spot. DeBernardis went 3-for-3 at the plate with two doubles, three runs scored and three RBIs.
“This was huge, Ohio State’s a good team,” DeBernardis said. “It was a battle back-and-forth, it was anybody’s game but we came out on top.”
Part of the Lions’ resiliency came from a driven focus at the plate.
“We were just pushing up at the plate,” DeBernardis said. “We watched a little more and saw some pitches and realized that the guy’s gotta throw more pitches and you’re going to get the one pitch you want to select, and it worked out for us.”
Senior catcher Bobby Jacobs made his return to the field this weekend after suffering a jaw fracture against Northwestern two weeks ago. Jacobs played in all three games, but wore a hockey-style catcher’s helmet and a batting helmet with a large face guard as his jaw is still wired shut.
The Lions put two runs on the board in the seventh to go up 10-8, then turned to reliever Geoff Boyleston down the stretch. Boyleston threw 2.2 innings of relief and gave up a run in the eighth, but otherwise shut down Ohio State’s offense.
Wine said he felt Boyleston wasn’t at his sharpest and that the reliever threw more than he wanted, but credited Boyleston’s work in picking up the win to run his record to 2-0.
With the series win, the Lions moved into a tie with Michigan State atop the Big Ten standings. The teams will meet this coming weekend in East Lansing with first place at stake, and the Lions can thank their fight on Sunday for putting them in that position.
“It’s big because the whole conference is close, it’s within like two games from top to bottom so it’s good to just hang tight,” junior centerfielder Sean Deegan said. “It’s just big putting ourselves in a good position going into the end of the year.”