Johnny Piacentino

Penn State's Johnny Piacentino bats against Wagner on Feb. 23, 2020. The Nittany Lions defeated the Seahawks, 4-2. Photo/Andy Mead

Penn State salvaged a series split after dropping its previous two games.

The Nittany Lions picked up their second win of the season Sunday afternoon, taking two out of four games from the Wildcats.

It was a back-and-forth contest that featured seven lead changes and seven home runs, ending with the blue and white securing a 13-10 victory.

After Northwestern took an early lead, Penn State responded in the bottom of the first when Matt Wood knocked in Gavin Homer with a single, which was quickly followed by Johnny Piacentino hitting a two-run home run to dead center.

After tacking on a run when Homer scored on a throwback to the mound, Northwestern responded by plating four in the top of the third to take a 5-4 lead.

The blue and white followed in the bottom half of the inning thanks to freshman Josh Spiegel, who hit a two-run home run to left center to put Penn State back on top 6-5.

The Wildcats came back in the fourth, putting two runs across. Penn State responded once more in the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back home runs by Wood and Piacentino, the latter hitting his second of the day as Penn State then led 8-7.

Northwestern did not wait long to come back, though. The Wildcats hit a two-run home run to center field in the fifth and retook the lead at 9-8.

In the bottom of the sixth, Piacentino hit his third home run of the game, a solo shot to center. Two RBI doubles from Spiegel and Jay Harry, as well as a fielder's choice, added three more runs to give the Nittany Lions a 13-9 lead from which they did not look back..

This lead was extended in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI double from Kyle Hannon. In the top of the eighth, Northwestern scored off of a sacrifice fly, narrowing the lead to 13-10.

Penn State put the game away in the top of the ninth, splitting the series and returning back to State College with a 2-2 record.

Reliever Chad Rodgers (1-0) was awarded the win after giving up one run in three innings while Steven Miller recorded the save for the blue and white.

In 3 ⅓ innings pitched, starter Kyle Virbitsky gave up seven earned runs and eight hits while striking out five.

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Here are some of the headlines and notable moments from the final game of Penn State’s opening series.

Penn State digs the long ball

Sunday’s game saw Penn State players slug five home runs, courtesy of three from Piacentino, one from Wood and one from Spiegel.

In their first three games this season, the Nittany Lions had tallied three home runs total, with two of those three coming from Spiegel, who is now tied with Piacentino with the team lead with three.

Penn State cashed in on those home runs as well, with seven of the 13 runs coming by way of long ball.

Last year in 15 games, Penn State hit seven home runs. They have already surpassed their season total after just four games.

Virbitsky struggles to gain footing

Virbitsky struggled out of the gate but appeared to start to find a rhythm toward the back half of his outing. However, after giving up multiple hits and runs in the third and fourth innings, he was pulled out of the game.

Early in the first, Virbitsky had some struggles when he allowed a couple of hits. But in the second, he began to pound the strike zone.

A rough third inning saw him give up a three-run homer to left, followed by a pair of doubles from Northwestern in the fourth inning.

Offensive Explosion

Penn State saw its offense take off Sunday, scoring 13 runs by the way of 17 hits.

By far the most impressive aspect of the Nittany Lions’ offense was their extra base hitting. The blue and white totaled five home runs and five doubles.

Penn State also drew six walks, giving it a constant stream of baserunners.

After Saturday’s doubleheader where Penn State struggled to score, when it plated just two runs combined in the pair of games, the Nittany Lions’ bats were alive Sunday.

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