A three-run second inning by the Iowa Hawkeyes proved to be insurmountable for Penn State on Thursday evening in Game 1 of a three-game series, and the Nittany Lions lost 3-2. The Hawkeyes took advantage of that second inning, which saw an error, a passed ball, two walks and two hits. And, on the flip-side, the Nittany Lions were unable to make anything of a spectacular pitching performance from senior Nick Hedge.
After an eventful second inning, Hedge didn’t give up a run in his next four and two-thirds innings of work. The southpaw scattered six hits in six and two-thirds innings while striking out five and walking two (both in the second inning).
“I thought he (Hedge) competed … but we didn’t help him out in the inning they scored three runs,” said head coach Rob Cooper, “Erase that inning, and I think we outplayed them.”
Hedge’s only blemish on the day was his walks, which came with an error by shortstop Conlin Hughes. Hedge put up zeroes the rest of the game before being pulled for closer Jack Anderson with a 2-2 count and two outs in the top of the seventh inning.
“Jack is so hard to hit with an 0-0 count, I felt like that was the right time to give them a different look and make it harder on the hitter,” Cooper said of his decision to bring in his closer.
Anderson finished the game on the mound for Penn State, throwing the final two and one-third innings in relief.
The sidearm-throwing righty shut down Iowa’s hitters, not allowing a hit while also striking out Zach Daniels to end the top half of the ninth inning. Anderson allowed only two baserunners, gave up one walk and hit a batter.
For Iowa, starting pitcher C.J. Eldred went four strong innings and gave up one earned run, scattering five hits and striking out one. Eldred was relieved by Nick Gallagher, who went on to throw three and two-thirds innings of one-run ball, with the lone run coming across in the bottom of the eighth inning. Gallagher gave up three hits while striking out four Nittany Lions.
Daniels started the game for the Hawkeyes at second base, but he came in to throw the final inning-and-a-third to shut the door on a Penn State comeback. The right-handed reliever didn’t allow a hit and fanned pinch-hitter Jordan Bowersox to end the game.
Senior Smash Brothers
Senior Greg Guers came in to Thursday night’s matchup hitting .395 over the last 10 games for the Nittany Lions, and, on Thursday, he only added to that total. The senior slugger went 2-for-4 and scored a run to bring his season average up to .314.
Guers continues a successful senior season with his 59 hits for a Penn State offense where he also leads in slugging percentage, amassing a blistering .495 average.
Following Guers in the lineup is senior Tyler Kendall, who has also been red-hot recently. Kendall went 3-for-4 Thursday to bring his average to .319 on the season. He also chipped in with an RBI to go along with his three-hit night. The senior designated hitter entered the game against the Hawkeyes hitting .359 in his last 10 games.
Back at it tomorrow
The Nittany Lions still control their own destiny as far as making the Big Ten tournament. Only two wins separate Penn State and the post-season as the Nittany Lions look to secure that spot in a double-header Friday, with the first game starting at 2 p.m.
Cooper will have his team ready to go for both games, however, his Nittany Lions are taking it one pitch, one game at a time, and his message is simple.
“Just come ready to play. Be ready for first pitch tomorrow at 2 o’clock. We know we have to win two games, but you can’t win two unless you win the first,” Cooper said, “We get to go at 2 o’clock, and we’ll be ready to take it pitch-by-pitch.”
Image credit: Mark Selders/GoPSUsports.com