Hurricanes Baseball Reporter
The long wait is finally over. After tonight’s embarrassment, the wait could have been a bit longer. The Nittany Lions roared into the Light and put the BIG hurt before a near-capacity crowd of 3495 disappointed fans on the Cane’s seasonal opener behind sub-quality pitching and limited hitting. In the truest sense regarding the pitching, we don’t have what I call a true starter. All three of our weekend starters are average at best and this is what we are going to have to contend with during this season. We need for them to give us 6-7 innings of solid pitching and for the offense to provide the cushion necessary to avoid early departure. Tonight was exactly what we didn’t need in either our starter or our offense. Gage Zielh only lasted 2 innings giving up 5 runs while the Nittany Lions were a wild beast set free pounding out 9 hits to include a bases-clearing double and a HR. The offense was kept in check until the 8th to only 2 runs when they finally got a wake-up call and the bats began to sing. Unfortunately too little, too late. Miami showed moments of sheer power with three HRs spread out over the course of the game but with only 6 hits total it was not nearly enough to offset the number of runs amassed as Penn State continually found the holes for hits and runs.
Gino went with a lineup that should have translated into power throughout. What it should be and what resulted were entirely a different matter. Just two hits were recorded through 6 innings. If we expect to win, we can not afford to put up such numbers. The opposition is not going to be hanging around, like tonight, to wait for us to get on the right track.
Penn State struck early and drew first blood with back-to-back hits in the first, but for the moment, not putting up runs. However, in the second the barrage of hits kept coming with a back-to-back leadoff singles taking advantage of swinging on the first pitch. Gage settled down with a K before giving up a walk to load the bases. With each batter, if they weren’t swinging on the first pitch were disciplined to take the count deep driving up Gage’s pitch count. With the bases loaded a bases-clearing double followed up with an RBI double had Penn State striking first to the tune of 4-0.
The third opened with a lead-off homer to left followed by a pair of singles which was enough for Gino could stomach resulting in Gage’s night being done. Ben Chestnutt would be the first of five to be called from the bullpen tonight. With runners on 1st and 2nd, Ben gave what we very much needed striking out the next three batters.
Finally, it was time for Miami to answer in the name of Dominic Pitelli. Dom goes right-center 377 feet for Miami’s first score decreasing the deficit 5-1. Back to the top of the order with Dario Gomez getting his first hit to center. No idea what Dario was thinking trying to stretch a single into a double but got caught short on a 8-1-4 relay. Normally the ball is thrown to second and Dario must have thought it was an overthrow and tried to take advantage. The pitcher being alert threw to second for the easy out. On the board 4-1 end of three.
In the 5th, Penn State adds to their lead with a homer to right-center making the score 5-1. That ended the day for Chestnutt and Alejandro Torres was next up on the carousel. After the single by Dario in the 3rd, Miami would not see another hit until the 7th only having one base runner in the interim. Zach Levenson goes solo bound with a 410 foot shot to left center. This narrowed the lead to 6-2. Managed to get a couple of base runners on but failed to capitalize on it.
Torres would last until the 8th striking out 4 and being charged the one of the 3 runs put up on the board from the lead-off single to start the 8th. Gino brought in Carlos Lequerica for just two batters giving up a single, before turning the rock over to Rafe Schlesinger. What should have been a DP 1-6-3 turned disastrous in Rafe throwing the ball into center scoring the runner from second. Runners 2nd and 3rd, single to right for the second run in the inning ending the inning on a pass-ball for run #3 driving the score to 9-2.
The Canes would not quit and whatever was spoken in the dugout woke up the sleeping giant answering with three runs of their own to put them within 4. CJ Kayfus started the rally with a one-out single followed up with a Yoyo RBI double. WP would take Yoyo to third and then Ian Farrow hits the longest shot of the night going over the light in left center 425 feet to make it 9-5. Zach would ground out 5-3 and once again action from the swing from Blake Cyr having the SS be charged a throwing error from a deep shot to short. Carlos Perez is hit by pitch and a WP advance both runners one base (2nd,3rd). Dominic Pitelli who homered in the 3rd with a hit could bring the Canes within 2. It definitely would have been dramatic in a great comeback but a 4-3 groundout ended the rally and hopes for a Mark Light Miracle to open the season.
The offense just did not have it tonight. Only able to get the lead off runner on once compared to Penn State getting the lead off runner 6 of the 9 innings. Our overall hitting was .182 compared to .372 of the Nittany Lions. They outhit us 16-6 with none of our hitters with a multiple-hit night. We did have 3 round trippers (Ian Farrow, Zach Levenson, Dominic Pitelli) accounting for half of our hits and one double(Yoyo Morales). We are going to have to do much better in getting on base and not leaving them stranded. We are going to continue to get HRs but it would be nice if we could get them with runners on the bases. Six hits tonight were inexcusable with the amount of power we have.
As for pitching, I have said enough. This is our Achilles Heel. The only way we are going anywhere is for our offense put enough runs on the board exceeding that of our opponents. We won’t do it with the quality of pitchers we put on the mound. Hopefully, they will improve over the course of the season but right now they are not ready to be competitive in the ACC.
Tomorrow, we try to rebound. Gino has not released the name of tomorrow’s starter but it will probably be Karson Ligon. We have a tough schedule this week with 5 games total before next weekend against Dartmouth. This will put a lot of wear on our pitchers and let’s hope we can bounce back and cage these Nittany Lions. First pitch 7PM.