UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Michigan State baseball team used a pair of impressive starting pitching performances to sweep Penn State, 4-1 and 10-2, Sunday afternoon at Medlar Field. MSU (21-23, 10-13 Big Ten), which won three of four in the series, has now won seven of its last eight games and is just a 1/2 game back of sixth place Penn State (20-27, 11-13) in the conference standings.
In game one, which went seven innings, Mark Sorensen (3-5) allowed just four hits and one run in six innings while striking out three. After allowing a leadoff walk to score in the first, Sorensen shut down the Nittany Lion offense, retiring 12 of his last 14 batters in his final four innings.
Freshman A.J. Achter pitched 7.1 innings of one-hit ball in the second game to collect his first career victory. Penn State scored two unearned runs in the first, but Achter (1-2) didn’t allow another hit the rest of the way and only five batters reached base.
"At first I didn’t realize it," Achter said of his one-hitter, "until Coach Grewe came out and said something. I just had to go out there and compete. I didn’t have my best fastball, but my off-speed pitches were working. It’s battling, working down in the zone, and throwing several pitches for strikes."
As a staff, Michigan State limited Penn State to eight hits in the doubleheader. For the weekend, MSU’s staff gave up just eight runs, six earned, good for a 1.74 ERA. The Nittany Lions hit .184 in the series.
At the plate, Chris Roberts had three hits on the day, including four RBI and a two-run homer in game two. His homer, which came in the first inning, was the first ball in stadium history to clear the bleachers in right field. Roberts hit .500 in the series (8-for-16; five RBI) and is now batting .449 in Big Ten play. Steve Gerstenberger also had four RBI and three hits. He hit his second career leadoff homer with a towering blast to start game two.
GAME ONE RECAP
Although Penn State went up 1-0 with a run in the first inning, MSU battled back to tie the game in the third. With the bases loaded, Kyle Day fought through an 11-pitch walk to plate Jeff Holm. Holm went 3-for-3 in the game with two runs.
The Spartans took a 2-1 advantage in the fourth on a Brandon Doherty squeeze bunt that not only scored Brandon Eckerle, but went down as an infield single. MSU added to its lead in the sixth as Steve Gerstenberger drilled a two-out, two-run single off PSU closer Drew O’Neil, making it 4-1.
Kurt Wunderlich earned his first career save by closing out the seventh.
"I think I really settled down after the first two innings," said Sorensen, as Penn State left five runners on base in the first two frames. "I got in a groove to finish out, and I got more comfortable as the game went on. Really, I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I battled through and made a couple of pitches when I needed to, and got out of some jams. It feels good to get this win today, the team really stepped up and made some plays."
GAME TWO RECAP
Gerstenberger started game two with a bang, crushing a 1-1 pitch to the bleachers in left field. His homer was then matched by Roberts, who quickly put MSU up 3-0 with his massive shot that went out of the stadium.
Penn State responded with two unearned runs in the bottom half of the first, cutting the lead to 3-2.
The game turned into a rout in the third, as MSU plated six runs to take a 9-2 advantage. Kyle Day led off the frame with a deep shot to left-center, his seventh of the year. Roberts also hit a single in the inning that drove in two runs.
MSU scored its 10th and final run in the sixth, as Eric Roof drilled a double to left-center, scoring Justin Potes from first.
Meanwhile, Achter was cruising through the Penn State lineup. After the first, the Nittany Lions did not place a runner in scoring position with Achter on the mound. He exited the game with one out in the eighth. Tyler Newsome finished the eighth and Nolan Moody closed the ninth to preserve the victory.
Roof collected three hits, while Gerstenberger, Roberts and Potes each had two.
Michigan State returns to action Wednesday, May 7 to host Western Michigan at Oldsmobile Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.