I made the trip tonight out to College Station, which like State College, you know when you're there because of the increase in road kill just before the city limits, to watch the baseball team take on the Aggies, and man, was it underwhelming. Penn State lost 17-3, scoring the three runs all in the 9th inning to protect from being shut out. That said, I still think Penn State is an above average team in terms of previous Nittany Lions squads, and some of the young pitching tonight will be really good in the future.
Tonight's Nittany starter was freshman righty John Walter. Walter had excellent command of his fastball and a good change in pace with his curve. I couldn't see his change up from where I was sitting, but it didn't seem like he used it much anyway. Walter has a pretty smooth windup, dropping his arm to his back pocket then bringing it over the top. It seemed like he definite tends to a ground ball pitcher. I think he'll be a regular in the weekend rotation starting next year, becoming Penn State's next ace.
Walter ended up going 4 innings on this night, giving up 4 runs on 5 hits, no walks, and 2 strikeouts. The 4 runs came on a string of 4 hits in a row in the fourth. Scott Arthur lead off with a bunt back toward the third base side of the pitchers mound, and with a bang-bang play at first, the umpire made the wrong call (I can say this objectively as a Michigan baseball fan, not Penn State) - safe. Center fielder Brodie Greene then bunted a perfect ball down the third base line, leaving Penn State no play. DH Joe Patterson then dropped a soft hit single into the left center gap, but Penn State's Deegan was able to hold the runners at bay by making it look like he'd catch the fly ball. When it fell, the runners were only able to advance one base. This was followed up by a blast by Aggie first baseman Caleb Shofner to the right center wall. That double would clear the bases, plating A&M's first 3 runs, with only one truly solid hit. Two ground balls later would see Shofner score to make it 4-0 after 4 innings.
The starter for A&M wasn't having any problems. Wacha fanned 11 Nittany Lion batters in just 6 innings of work, allowing just 4 baserunners. The strikeouts were a mix of good pitching, bad pitch selection, and bad umpiring. I kept a tally on missed strike calls, and A&M had 4 really bad strike calls go in their favor in the early innings-all of them well below the knees. This strike zone forced the batters into swinging at a couple extra bad pitches, complicating their hitting woes. To make it worse, the umpire blew 3 strike calls for the Nittany Lions, including one where the entire stadium went silent awaiting the strike three call. It definitely seemed like some home cooking, but then again, every game I've watched this season (about 20 or so) has included some very bad umpiring, especially with the low ball.
After Walter exited, Ryan Ignas entered for the Nittany Lions. Ignas is a side arm righty, and from my seat at the visitors bullpen, he had good control of his fastball but not much on his off speed. That continued on the field. He had a quick 1-2-3 inning aided by a well timed pitch out and caught stealing in the 5th, but with two outs in the sixth, his defense let him down. After giving up a single and stolen base, Ignas induced a pop fly and struck out a batter. A single for Kenny Jackson later would plate one run, but things fell apart after Nittany Lion shortstop Luis Montesinos made his first error of the game. The next pitch, with two runners on, would clear the left field fence by a mile. Three unearned runs crossed the plate. The next batter fouled out immediately to end the inning, and Ignas's night.
So after 6, Penn State was down 8-0, and the game was basically over. David Lutz, a submarine throwing lefty, came in for Penn State in the bottom of the inning, but he was rocked pretty solidly. He gave up a single, hit a batter, gave up a home run of the railroad tracks beyond the right field fence to start the inning. Another Montesinos error, this time on a ground ball through his legs, kept the inning going. Three more singles would lead to another couple runs.
In the bottom of the 8th, hard throwing righty Drew Irsfeld came in and had about as much success as his predecessors. Steranka tried to ole one at third and it got by him, followed by a double off the left field wall, and another home run for the Aggies gave them a 17-0 lead going into the final inning.
Then, and only then, did Penn State wake up on offense. First baseman Joey DeBernardis lead off the innings with a dribbler up the middle. Eramo, who hit a double off the wall in his previous at bat, was pitched around (although probably not on purpose). Then Montesinos attempted to make up for one of his errors by knocking in a run with a single to center. Replacement second baseman Elliot Searer then hit a liner into right for another single.
17-2! We've got a comeback going! But, Steve Snyder was having a bad day. With the hat trick of 3 Ks already, and hoping to avoid the golden sombrero, Snyder one uped himself and grounded into a double play. But in his defense, he was clearly safe at first, and the umpire at first base was ready to go home. I wasn't going to tell the umpire to his face though, as his biceps were almost big enough to rip apart his sleeves. Seriously, the dude was jacked. A run did score on the GDP though.
Leadoff hitter Sean Deegan would single to try and get things going again, but it was all for naught as Heath Johnson struck out to end the game. It was the fastest 14 run win I've ever seen at just about 2 and a half hours.
So yeah, it wasn't so exciting for a Nittany Lion fan, out of the 30 or so that might have been there. Some things were rather annoying. Having to hear the strike out video play 16 times in the game was driving me insane. As was the train that has to honk at the rail road crossing all of 100 feet from the stadium. LOUD NOISES! And their park, while having a decent view of campus and a nice double deck concourse, it doesn't hold a candle to Medlar.
Penn State should still be a pretty good team, and for those of you in State College, I highly encourage coming out to a game. Wanamaker, the ace, is a VERY good pitcher who is coming back from a year off after an injury. Watching him pitch is worth it.