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Penn State

14-run 9th Another Step Forward for Penn State

Penn St. infielder Kyle Hannon (2) May 17, 2022 David Hague/PSN NSN

Two rival colleges played a tightly-contested, back-and-forth baseball game at a major league stadium for eight innings.
The top of the ninth made everything that happened in those first eight innings footnotes at best and irrelevant at worst for those in attendance at PNC Park.
Penn State came into the top of the ninth down 6-5 to rival Pitt, hoping to create a comeback.
It ended up creating a slaughter.
Penn State scored 14 runs– yes, 14 runs– in one 48-minute half inning, and the man who drove in the first three, appropriately, grew up near Pittsburgh.
Josh Spiegel had played at PNC Park before back when he was attending Penn-Trafford High School, but this game “just felt different.”
The home run Spiegel hit into the bullpen with two on and no outs in the ninth to give Penn State an 8-6 lead surely felt different– and better– than most.
“It’s a great feeling,” Spiegel said after the game. “(I was) just trying to put a ball in play hard, trying to get that one run in because the one run meant we tied it. I just got a pitch out over and was able to drive it. A great feeling.”
Three batters later, Kyle Hannon hit Penn State’s second three-run home run of the inning, making the score 11-6 and the game feel like a lock.
Penn State almost certainly didn’t need to score the remaining eight runs, but the team enjoyed doing it.
“To keep piling it on like that,” Matt Wood, another western Pennsylvania product who played at Pine-Richland, said, “it’s pretty fun. It’s kind of like what you dream of when you play baseball.”
For Pitt and its coach, Mike Bell, the inning was closer to a nightmare than a dream.
Bell had never seen a frame quite like it and could have done without his team being on the wrong end.
“No, I haven’t seen it before,” Bell said. “I don’t like to experience it.”
The loss was a crushing blow for the Panthers, not just because it was to an in-state rival. Even though it was a nonconference game and the team had already clinched a berth in the ACC tournament, the loss hurts Pitt’s NCAA tournament hopes.
“We all know that when Pitt and Penn State play,” Penn State coach Rob Cooper said, “it means something. It doesn’t matter if it’s soccer, baseball, football, basketball. It means something. So, I know it meant a lot to our guys.”
For Penn State, the win won’t help the team in its quest to qualify for the eight-team Big Ten tournament. The Nittany Lions (11-10 in the Big Ten) sit in fifth and are three games clear of ninth-place Northwestern.
What the win does, however, is provide more evidence of how far the program has come since its 4-18 conference campaign in 2019.
Our program has struggled over the last few years, and they’ve worked really, really hard to try to change that,” Cooper, in his ninth season as Penn State’s head coach, said.
Both Spiegel and Wood– who leads the Big Ten in hitting– have been part of that change, and Wood hopes that the Penn State community recognizes the progress that’s continually being made.
“To come from where we’ve been in the past few years and to really build a culture that we have be able to push the program like we are right now,” Wood said. “I hope that people are paying attention to that.”
Those who saw this Pitt-Penn State game will probably remember that ninth inning most of all, and Cooper summed up the frame perfectly with two words.
“They unloaded,” Cooper said. “Just extremely proud of them and their effort.

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