Penn State remained winless in doubleheaders on Saturday, dropping both games to No. 19 Michigan.
The Nittany Lions were blown out in Game 1 17-4 and lost 8-6 in extra innings in Game 2.
Game 1 of the doubleheader got off to a hot start for the Nittany Lions as Johnny Piacentino ripped a ball right over the left field fence in the first inning.
Starter Conor Larkin looked to be continuing his dominant start to the 2021 season before Michigan jumped on him in the top of the fourth inning. The Wolverines took the lead on a two-run home run.
Larkin then gave up a double and a hard-hit ball that resulted in a two-base error. A sacrifice fly extended the lead to 3-1 before he worked out of the fourth.
Piacentino made his mark yet again as he doubled to start off the bottom of the fourth and advanced all the way home on a pair of wild pitches to cut into the lead. The blue and white added two more off of a Tayven Kelley double and retook the lead.
The Wolverines stormed back against Larkin in the fifth and tied the game, forcing coach Rob Cooper to turn to his bullpen. Michigan tacked on four more the retake the lead 8-4.
Michigan pushed three more across in the sixth, one in the eighth and five in the ninth while Penn State’s offense stayed quiet the rest of the way.
Kyle Virbitsky took the mound for the Nittany Lions in Game 2. He worked through a clean first inning, but gave up a two-out, run-scoring single in the top of the second to open the contest’s scoring.
The blue and white offense exploded in the third inning. Cooper’s squad batted around and pushed across five total runs in the inning thanks to four walks and a few timely hits.
The Nittany Lions got one more in the fourth before Michigan cut into the deficit with a solo home run in the fifth. Virbitsky shut it down until the sixth inning.
The Wolverines loaded the bases, but Virbitsky was able to get them to two outs. Mason Mellott came on in relief and gave up a two-run single, but limited the damage there to hold the Penn State lead.
Mellott, after pitching in Friday’s win, cleaned up in the seventh and eighth, but found trouble in the ninth. He allowed one hit, two walks and two runs to score to tie the game 6-6.
The teams headed to extra innings for the second time in the series, but the outcome wasn’t as favorable for the Nittany Lions.
A passed ball and a wild pitch moved a Michigan runner to third base. The Wolverines then got a pair of run-scoring doubles to take their first lead of the game since the second inning.
Penn State’s bats went quiet in the bottom of the 10th to secure the win for Michigan.
Freebies bite in Game 1
Larkin ultimately pitched well in the game despite giving up six runs, racking up seven strikeouts in just four and one third innings of work. He also didn’t allow much hard contact outside of the home run.
However, he walked one batter and hit two more. When Tyler Shingledecker came on in the momentum-shifting fifth inning, he gave a free pass to three of the four batters he faced.
Ralph Gambino came on and issued a walk and a hit batter. Jared Freilich and Braden Halladay were the only Penn State pitchers to not issue a free base.
The Nittany Lions had three errors, a dropped third strike that resulted in a run, and a pair of misplayed fly balls that all allowed runners on base. The Wolverines scored 17 runs on eleven hits.
Piacentino plays Superman
Piacentino was one of the lone bright spots for the Nittany Lions in Game 1’s blowout. He opened the scoring early with a solo shot deep to left field.
The rest of his game saw two more extra-base hits to give the New Jersey native three hits and a 2.000 slugging percentage in Game 1.
In addition to his prowess at the plate, Piacentino took one of his doubles and turned it into a run by advancing on two balls in the dirt.
He accounted for half of the Nittany Lions’ runs and nearly half of their hits, as they only amassed seven total in Game 1.
Piacentino added another RBI early in Game 2 on a fielder’s choice. He ended the day going 4-for-9 at the plate with one home run, two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Virbitsky brings it
Virbitsky has had an up-and-down start to his season, but he trended more toward up on Saturday.
He made it through five and two-thirds innings of work, his second-longest outing of the year. In his longest, he gave a lights-out performance against Indiana, but didn’t see much help from his offense.
Virbitsky racked up seven strikeouts to tie his career-high while only allowing five hits. He got tagged for four earned runs, but two of those came from the two-run single allowed by Mellott.
The fifth-inning home run hurt the eye-test for his performance, but he worked a big-time strikeout in the sixth when the Wolverines had the bases loaded with just one out.
Virbitsky got six runs worth of insurance, but Mellott faltering in the ninth forced him into a no-decision.
MORE SPORTS COVERAGE