Penn State Sneaks By Iowa, 5-3
May 24, 2007
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After Iowa picked up an early 3-0 lead, Penn State came back to score five unanswered runs to sneak by the Hawkeyes in Big Ten Tournament action. Both teams dropped lopsided games in Wednesday's opening round to place them one loss away from ending their tournament life. With this in mind, the Nittany Lions battled back from an early deficit and relied on a deep pitching staff to pull away with a 5-3 victory.
It took until the eighth inning for Iowa to score in its 12-3 quarterfinal loss to Illinois in the first game of Big Ten Tournament play. However, it only took a swing of the bat by centerfielder Travis Sweet for the Hawkeyes to jump out to an early 2-0 lead against the Nittany Lions. Despite double digit scoring the day before, no one had found the pasture on the other side of the wall. Sweet changed all that when he teed off on an inside pitch by Penn State starting pitcher Craig Clark, pulling the ball over the left field wall for a two run homerun. Shortstop Jason White scored on the bomb after leading off the inning with a well placed bunt for a hit.
Iowa tacked on an insurance run in the fourth to increase its lead to 3-0. After Clark picked off a sleeping Hawkeye at first base to get the second out of the inning it looked as if Penn State was going to get through an up and down inning. Iowa third baseman Kevin Hoef had other ideas has he started the two out rally with a single through the right side. He was followed by Ben Geelen who advanced Hoef on a single of his own, this time hitting a shot through the left side of the diamond. Second baseman Justin Toole fouled off a barrage of pitches before hitting a sky high fly ball to shallow right field where it was misread by Penn State right fielder Rick Marlin and dropped. With two outs on the play, Hawkeye runners were off on contact and Hoef managed to hustle home safely.
The extra run proved useful as the Nittany Lions roared back into contention. Up to that point, Penn State had been threatening in almost every bottom inning, placing a runner on third base in both the first and second innings, but was unable to execute. Finally, in the fourth the Nittany Lions capitalized on two walks and a triple by first baseman Cory Wine to light up the scoreboard. After Robert Yodice and Joe Blackburn walked to put runners on first and second, Wine sent a screaming line drive over the center fielders head to plate both runners. Mike Deese evened up the score at 3-3 when he hit a ball deep in the hole to score Wine from third. With one only one out, Iowa starting pitcher Nicholas Erdman got the remaining Nittany Lions to ground out to end the inning and escape further damage.
The score remained tied until the seventh when Penn State took the lead for the first time all game. The drive started when Matt Cavagnaro picked up his third hit of the day up the middle. Scott Gaffney was called safe after laying down a bunt for a hit to place runners on first and second with no out. Designed hitter Robert Yodice needed just to place a ball to the outfield to score a speedy Cavagnaro and advance Gaffney to third. Clean-up batter, Blackburn followed with a fundamental sacrifice fly to score Gaffney and put the Nittany Lions up 5-3. Iowa used three pitchers that inning including starting pitcher Erdman, who was replaced after allowing seven hits in a sold 6.1 inning performance. Left handed hurler Kyle Heim came in face two Nittany Lion batters, retiring one before being replaced by Brock Alberts. Alberts was able to silence the Lions and closed out the inning unscathed, however, the damage had been done.
Clark (6-4) showed great composure after allowing three early runs. He was able to hold off any more offensive attacks and see his team bounce back to pick up the win for his Nittany Lion team.
With the loss, Iowa ends its tournament life while Penn State awaits its next opponent.