Penn State Baseball

Penn State baseball: No. 8 Illinois jumps on Nittany Lions early in win

Penn State’s Nick Riotto slides as Illinois’ Reid Roper tries to turn the double play during the Nittany Lions’ 6-3 loss on Sunday morning at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Penn State’s Nick Riotto slides as Illinois’ Reid Roper tries to turn the double play during the Nittany Lions’ 6-3 loss on Sunday morning at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. CDT photo

A four-run second inning helped No. 8 Illinois complete a weekend sweep of Penn State with a 6-3 win Sunday.

Will Krug started the scoring for Illinois with an RBI bunt single in the top of the second inning at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The long inning continued for Nittany Lion freshman pitcher Nick Distasio when Illinois’ Ryan Nagle sent a two-run single into center field. The next batter, Reid Roper, hit an RBI single to end Distasio’s day after 12/3 innings.

Distasio took the loss, falling to 1-6 on the season.

“This is the second outing in a row that hasn’t been great for him, but that kid cares, he’s working hard and he’s going to continue to learn from this,” Penn State coach Rob Cooper said. “Part of it is they’re freshmen and they’re hitting a wall mentally, because it’s a physically grinding, draining season.”

Nittany Lion relievers Sal Biasi, Marko Boricich and Dakota Forsyth allowed a combined three hits and two runs in 71/3 innings.

“It was a great job from Sal, Dakota and Mark just to keep us within reach,” Penn State’s Taylor Skerpon said. “We were down 5-3 in the eighth inning, so hats off to them, they did a great job.”

Penn State (13-26, 2-12 Big Ten) scored its first run in the bottom of the third on an RBI groundout by Greg Guers. The Fighting Illini responded in the fifth when David Kerian’s sacrifice fly scored Casey Fletcher.

Illinois starting pitcher John Kravetz allowed three runs — two earned — on nine hits in six innings to get the win. Kravetz also got out of two big jams, stranding runners on first and third in the second and escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. He improved his record to 4-0.

“I think the middle innings we were just one hit away with two outs, to really get guys going when we were down 5-1,” Skerpon said. “It was frustrating, but we stuck with it, and ended up squeaking out a couple more runs toward the end.”

Tyler Kendall drove in a run on an infield single after Nick Riotto led off with a double in the bottom sixth. Guers followed with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, collecting his second RBI of the game pulling Penn State within 5-3.

The Fighting Illini (36-6-1, 13-1) capped the scoring with a solo home run by Jason Goldstein in the top of the ninth.

Skerpon, Riotto, Kendall and Nick Graham each had two hits for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State hosts Pittsburgh on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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