ALTOONA, Pa. – No. 3 seed Penn State Altoona baseball used a pair of dramatic victories on Saturday afternoon at Stewart Athletic Field to win this weekend's Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Tournament first round, best-of-three series over No. 6 seed Pitt-Greensburg.
"Two hard-fought victories," said Penn State Altoona head coach RJ Barnard. "We trailed in both games, but like always, we battled back."
In game one, Penn State Altoona (26-14) overcame a late, one-run deficit by scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth to leap ahead and win 4-3. In game two, the Lions came back to win 8-7 in extra innings, getting a walk-off, two-out RBI single from George Stiuso (Milford, NJ/Gill St. Bernard's).
"Each game, it seems like someone different steps up. [Dylan] Bates, who struggled most of the year at the plate, came up huge in the opener," said Barnard. "In game two, Austin [Anderson] had a big hit to tie it after a rough day, and George ended it. I'm very proud of George after all he's been through this week. I was shocked that they pitched to him with first base open, and luckily for us, it backfired."
With the wins, Penn State Altoona takes this weekend's AMCC Tournament first round series and will advance to the conference championship rounds, hosted at top seed La Roche University in Pittsburgh. The Lions will start the championship rounds with a matchup against No. 2 seed Penn State Behrend on Thursday, May 9 at 1:00 p.m.
Meanwhile, Pitt-Greensburg's (14-21) season comes to an end, as it has been eliminated from the AMCC Tournament with today's losses.
Game One: Penn State Altoona 4, Pitt-Greensburg 3
Down 3-2, Penn State Altoona scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth and held on to grab the one-run win in the series opener against Pitt-Greensburg.
Dylan Bates (Towanda, PA/Towanda) went 2-for-3 and contributed the go-ahead RBI double in the sixth inning. Peter Jacobs (Dix Hills, NY/Half Hollow Hills West) was also 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored, and he hit the game-tying home run in the sixth.
Stiuso drew a walk in each of this plate appearances and scored a run. With his three walks, Stiuso established a new Penn State Altoona baseball single season record for walks. By the end of Saturday's action, Stiuso had accumulated a season-record 33 walks this season.
Zane Leister (Middleburg, PA/Midd-West) started on the mound and recorded his team-leading fifth win of the season, improving his record to 5-1. In six innings of work, the right-hander allowed three runs on nine hits and two walks.
Tyler Manger (Lindenhurst, NY/Lindenhurst) pitched a perfect seventh inning with one strikeout to record his team-best third save of the season.
Pitt-Greensburg opened the game by plating three runs in the top of the first inning, as RBI singles from Chris Common, Evan Johnston, and Michael Sullivan put the visitors up 3-0.
Penn State Altoona broke through for a pair in the bottom of the third, when run-scoring singles to the shortstop by Hunter Breon (Boiling Springs, PA/Boiling Springs) and Jacobs narrowed the Lions' deficit to 3-2.
Penn State Altoona made its move in the bottom of the sixth to take its first lead of the day. Jacobs led off the frame with a home run to right-center – his third homer of the season – that tied the score 3-3, and Bates' two-out, RBI single through the left side later in the inning gave the home team the 4-3 advantage.
After Pitt-Greensburg put the potential tying run aboard to lead off the top of the seventh, Manger entered and put down the next three batters in order to end the threat.
Game Two: Penn State Altoona 8, Pitt-Greensburg 7 (Final/10 Innings)
The Lions battled back from a pair of deficits to grab the win in game two. Trailing by one in the ninth, Penn State Altoona tied the score to send the game into extra innings. Down by one again in the 10th, the Lions countered with two runs to win in walk-off fashion.
Bates had another strong game at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI, two walks, and a run scored. Breon went 2-for-5 with an RBI, a walk, a run scored, and a stolen base, and Catcher Cumming (Altoona, PA/Altoona) was 2-for-5 with an RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base.
Austin Anderson (Macungie, PA/Emmaus) hit the game-tying RBI double in the ninth inning to send the game into extras, and Stiuso had the walk-off RBI single in the 10th.
Clayton Hain (Schaefferstown, PA/Eastern Lebanon County) got the nod on the mound in game two and ultimately took a no decision. In six innings, the righty surrendered six runs on seven hits and two walks while recording two strikeouts.
Austin Miller (Orbisonia, PA/Southern Huntingdon) followed Hain with four innings of relief to collect his third win of the season, upping his record to 3-2. Miller allowed no earned runs in his four innings of work while scattering eight hits and walking one. He also had one strikeout.
Penn State Altoona got out to a good start, and the Lions appeared to be headed to a drama-free win.
In the bottom of the second, Stiuso scored on a throwing error for the game's first run after reaching on a walk. Richard Carey (Milton, DE/Cape Henlopen) followed with an RBI double to right-center, and Breon's RBI single up the middle one batter later made it 3-0.
In the third, Bates' RBI base hit to right extended Penn State Altoona's lead to 4-0.
But Pitt-Greensburg used back-to-back home runs to cut into Penn State Altoona's deficit in the top of the fourth. Common's two-run homer to left-center put the Bobcats on the board, and Johnston followed him with a solo shot to center that narrowed the Lions' lead to 4-3.
Pitt-Greensburg scored three more runs in the sixth to get in front. Tyler Holland's two-run homer to right gave the visitors their first lead of the game, and Common later scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-4.
Andrew Culp (Oxford, PA/Oxford) cut Penn State Altoona's lead in half in the bottom of the sixth, hitting a solo home run to left field to trim Pitt-Greensburg's lead to 6-5. The homer was Culp's first of his collegiate career.
After two scoreless innings, the Lions finally got the tying run across in the bottom of the ninth. Jacobs led off the frame by reaching on a sharply-hit single to second base, and he moved up to second on Cumming's sacrifice bunt. After a flyout made it two outs, Anderson came through with a double to center that scored Jacobs to knot the score 6-6 and send the game into extra innings.
Pitt-Greensburg reclaimed the lead in the top of the 10th when Sullivan scored on a two-out error.
But Penn State Altoona pulled together to score two runs in the bottom of the 10th. With one out, Breon, Culp, and Jacobs drew walks to load the bases. Cumming followed with a ground ball to the second baseman that scored Breon to tie the score, 7-7. The next batter, Stiuso, grounded a pitch into right field to bring in the winning run.