It was deja vu for Penn State in its second doubleheader of the 2021 season.
After dropping both games last Saturday to Northwestern, the Nittany Lions fell to Indiana 7-2 in Game 1 and 8-0 in Game 2.
Game 1 looked like it may be a pitchers’ duel after a 1-2-3 first inning by both sides, but the offensive firepower showed up shortly after.
Indiana capitalized off of a poor inning from Nittany Lion starter Bailey Dees and put up three in the second. However, Penn State stormed right back off of a pair of doubles and plated two in the top of the third.
Dees and Indiana’s Tommy Sommer both shored up for the next few innings, but an errant back pick to first base by Dees led to a fourth run for the Hoosiers.
Penn State missed a scoring chance with the bases loaded in the fifth, and Indiana tacked on three more in the bottom half to put the lead out of the Nittany Lions’ reach.
Game 2 started with a great scoring opportunity for Penn State, putting two on in the first with walks, but the Nittany Lions couldn’t capitalize.
Indiana was able to plate a run in the first against Conor Larkin, but the offensive barrage from Game 1 didn’t carry over.
Once Larkin left the game, Steven Miller allowed Indiana to load the bases with only one out and was pulled before the inning was over. Hutch Gagnon came on, but couldn’t hold Indiana from scoring seven in the sixth inning.
Penn State was able to avoid being victims to a combined no-hitter, but the offense was stymied and shut out the rest of the way.
Dees struggles and defensive woes continue in Game 1
After a solid first start against Northwestern, Dees faltered in his second outing.
He managed to make it through four-and-a-third innings with seven strikeouts, but he struggled to hit his spots all day, resulting in two walks and eight hits. After finishing with a 1.88 ERA in 2020, Dees is well over that mark through two appearances.
However, Dees wasn’t the only reason Indiana was able to put up runs in Game 1. Of the seven runs the Hoosiers scored, only five were earned.
Penn State finished the game with three errors after totaling three errors throughout the entire Northwestern series. One of those errors came on the aforementioned back pick that directly resulted in a run.
Another play that won’t show up in the stat book was a ground ball to shortstop Jay Harry in the momentum-shifting fifth inning. Harry held the ball and the defense seemed lost in what looked like a double play opportunity to slow down the Hoosiers’ rally.
Coach Rob Cooper harped on defense in his season-opening press conference, saying it was an area that needed to get better for the blue and white. Two series in, that hasn’t been the case.
Offense continues to leave ducks on the pond
While poor defense dug Penn State into a hole deeper than it could have climbed out of, there was still little to be excited about at the plate.
It seemed like the Nittany Lions may have carried over momentum from their 13-run explosion against Northwestern when they had an important two-run third inning. The trend stopped there.
Indiana stretched its lead out, but Penn State still squandered opportunities to cut into its deficit.
The Nittany Lions left eight runners on base, most notably in the fifth and sixth innings. In both scenarios, Penn State had two runners on with one out, but left both innings scoreless.
In Game 2, the blue and white followed the same script as they opened the first inning with two on and one out, but had consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.
Penn State left another in scoring position in the eighth, but the game was far out of reach by then.
Larkin and Brown trade blows in pitchers’ duel
After the defensive struggles from Penn State in Game 1, Larkin and Brown captivated every storyline from Game 2.
Aside from the double that produced a run for Indiana in the first, Larkin and Brown kept their opponents quiet inning after inning.
Larkin buckled down and kept Indiana without a hit until the fifth inning, while Brown kept Penn State hitless through each of his seven innings of work.
Brown made Indiana history books, finishing with 16 total strikeouts, tied for the most in one game in Indiana history
Larkin ended the day with seven strikeouts and just two hits allowed in five full innings of work before Cooper turned the ball over to Miller and Gagnon, who were unable to stifle Indiana in the same way Larkin did.
Larkin took responsibility for his second loss of the year after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Northwestern. Larkin has shown flashes of dominance, but he hasn’t had much support from the offense.
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