Facing a 0-2 count with the bases loaded and two outs, Sean Deegan just tried to make solid contact.
He managed to do a little more than that.
The left fielder drove the pitch high off the wall down the right field line, missing a grand slam by a matter of feet. Instead, Deegan settled for a three-run triple that gave Penn State its first lead of the game at 4-3.
After Deegan scored on a single by Steve Snyder, Penn State held a 5-3 advantage, and the Nittany Lions (20-21) would not relinquish the lead.
“I was just trying to see the ball up, just try to hit the ball hard,” Deegan said. “Put the ball in play, score a run. It was a big situation, and he threw me a curveball and just hung it over the plate.”
Behind the timely hitting and a strong night from the bullpen, Penn State defeated Kent State, 6-4, at Medlar Field on Wednesday night, pulling the Lions to within one game of .500 following a 3-14 start to the season.
While Penn State held the lead for more than half the game, the opening innings did not go as Penn State had planned. Kent State jumped out to a 3-0 lead after 1.5 innings, giving the Lions some early ground to make up.
After scoring one run in the second, Penn State used a two-out rally highlighted by Deegan’s double to score four runs in the fourth inning. The first two batters were retired before five consecutive Penn State batter reached base.
“It seems like we really couldn’t get anything going,” Deegan said. “But then I got the big hit and Steve got another big hit right after me. Just to add that on, I think it kind of got to them mentally.”
Replacing starting pitcher Cody Lewis in the third inning, reliever Tim Dunn pitched 3.1 innings to earn the win, and he allowed only one run in the process.
Once the offense gave the pitchers a lead, Dunn said he and the other relievers pitched keep the lead.
“I had to go out there and just keep throwing strikes and pound the zone,” Dunn said. “Just let my defense work for me. It didn’t really change my approach.”
Despite allowing 19 hits in the game, Penn State’s pitchers buckled down with runners on base, limiting any potential damage on the scoreboard by stranding 15 Kent State players.
Dave Walking closed the game with five strikeouts in the final two innings for the Lions, and he said having an offense capable of scoring at any time added to the bullpen’s confidence.
“It’s really encouraging knowing they’re behind you no matter what,” Walkling said. “It’s tough going out as a pitcher with hardly any run support, but we haven’t had that problem.”