Penn State’s Taylor Skerpon beat out a double play attempt with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning on Sunday to deliver the game-winning RBI in the Nittany Lions’ 4-3 victory over Minnesota in a Big Ten series wrap up at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Earning his second win of the season, senior Neal Herring helped back the Lions’ offense with a scoreless 2 2/3 innings. Herring held the Gophers to just two hits to close the game, moving to a 2-0 record on the season and improving to a 4.50 ERA. Senior Steven Hill made the start for Penn State, throwing six innings with just five hits and three earned runs allowed. The veteran fired 98 pitches and struck out one before he was relieved by freshman Nick Hedge, who held the Gophers hitless during his 1 1/3 inning performance.
Billy Soule suffered the loss for Minnesota after giving up one run on one hit in 1 2/3 innings. Starter D.J. Snelten had a strong showing for the Gophers, firing eight innings and yielding two runs on eight hits. Snelten walked four and struck out seven before Soule came in to close.
Minnesota got on the board first, with Ryan Abrahamson reaching on a fielder’s choice to drive in Kurt Schlangen from third in the top of the first. Although Montesinos ripped the ball through the left side for his 150th career hit in the bottom of the inning, Penn State would not answer until the bottom of the third. Following an infield base hit from Searer, Montesinos hammered the ball to the left field corner for his sixth double of the season to drive in his senior counterpart. Searer’s run, his 18th of the season, would knot the score at 1-1.
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Despite the Lions keeping the momentum by posting their first of three double plays in the top of the fifth, the Gophers went on to steal back the lead in the sixth inning. Dan Olinger set things off with a double to left field, and crossed home plate following designated hitter Mark Tatera ripping a triple up the right field line. Tatera would then move the score to 3-1 moments later, with Matt Halloran knocking a double to the left field wall to bat in the redshirt sophomore.
With the Lions determined to keep the Gophers from gaining an edge, sophomore J.C. Coban (Boca Raton, Fla.) led off the bottom of the sixth with a hard-hit single up the middle. Freshman James Coates would eventually come to the plate with Coban on second and Skerpon on first, laying down a bunt to reach first. Coates’ base hit would draw an infield throwing error, allowing Coban to advance home and move Skerpon to third. The sophomore would score moments later on a 4-3 Minnesota double play, setting the score at 3-3 heading into the seventh.
Both squads would remain hitless until the bottom of the ninth, with Coates collecting his third hit of the contest. However, it would be Minnesota holding a potential game-winning situation in the top of the 10th, loading the bases with no outs. As Olinger reached on a fielder’s choice, Montesinos made a swift throw to Coban with Schlangen called out at home. The Lions followed up with 6-3 double play as Alex LaShomb came to the plate, shutting down the Gophers’ bats and holding the score to 3-3. Skerpon’s fielder’s choice RBI would end the contest moments later in the bottom of the inning, giving Penn State the extra-inning, Big Ten victory and improve to 12-30 overall, 3-15 in the conference.
Minnesota fell to 28-15, 11-4 in the Big Ten.