PITTSBURGH - A crowd of 2,474 watched West Virginia defeat Penn State 4-2 tonight at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This evening's contest was a makeup from earlier this year when West Virginia’s March 22 game at Penn State’s Lubrano Park was canceled because of inclement weather. The two schools agreed to play in Pittsburgh with Penn State serving as the home team.
West Virginia plated single runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings to improve 28-20 on the season.
Penn State, which defeated West Virginia 6-5 last night in Morgantown, falls to 15-33.
Some notes and observations from tonight’s game against the Nittany Lions:
* Yes, PNC Park is the best ballpark in major league baseball. It is especially pretty at nighttime with the downtown in the background.
* KDKA chief meteorologist Jeff Verszyla gave us tonight’s weather forecast on the video board and based on what he told us about the remainder of the week, I’m glad I cut my lawn on Tuesday evening after work.
* Judging from the people I saw on the concourse, I would say West Virginia fans outnumbered Penn State’s by at least a two-to-one margin.
* Nittany Lion first baseman Ryan Sloniger made a nice snow-cone grab of Cole Austin
’s soft, cue-shot liner to save a third run for starting pitcher Myles Gayman in the top of the third.
Austin returned the favor three innings later when he made a play suited for a big-league ballpark by robbing Penn State’s Christian Helsel of a hit in the bottom of the sixth. Jackson Cramer
also made a nice pick at first base on Austin’s low throw across the diamond.
* Cody Wood
had to look twice in his glove when he snagged Brett Davis’ sharp liner up the middle in the bottom of the seventh.
* I wonder if Helsel, Penn State’s senior third baseman from Altoona, is related to former Mountaineer outfielder Ron Helsel, a native of nearby Duncansville, Pennsylvania? Ron played for the late Dale Ramsburg in the early 1990s before spending a couple seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
* It looks like the Pirate Parrot will get to clock in some overtime for tonight. Does the Parrot get time and a half on Wednesday nights when the Buccos are out on the West Coast?
Speaking of overtime, at the end of the top half of the fourth inning Pizza Penny won tonight’s pierogi race, edging Bacon Burt in a photo finish.
* Did you know ballpark pizza has a way of hanging around the esophagus hours after you eat it?
* It’s probably not a good idea playing Sweet Caroline in a ballpark with a couple thousand Mountaineer fans in it. Sweet Caroline is NOT on the playlist at Monongalia County Ballpark, by the way.
* Why is it that college baseball official scorers are sometimes liberal with their decisions? Such was the case in the top of the fourth when Jimmy Galusky
was clearly bunting for a hit with Jackson Cramer
on first base. Galusky was awarded a sacrifice hit and one batter later, Chase Illig
smashed a double to the right centerfield wall to plate West Virginia’s third run.
* West Virginia starter Sam Kessler
was rolling along, retiring eight of nine batters before giving up three straight hits in the fourth including Penn State’s first run of the game.
* Penn State’s version of the Big Unit is 6-foot-8-inch, 225-pound lefthander Taylor Lehman from Keystone Oaks High right here in Pittsburgh. Lehman enter the game in the fifth and was promptly greeted with a sharp single to center by Braden Zarbnisky
* West Virginia reliever Cody Wood
made things interesting in the eighth, giving up three straight hits, including Helsel’s sharp double down the left field line to plate Nick Riotto for Penn State’s second run. Braden Zarbnisky
toed the rubber with the tying run at second, but was able to strike out Sloniger and pinch hitter Keith Leavitt to end the threat.
* The last time I witnessed a college baseball game at a Pittsburgh professional ballpark was in 1998 when West Virginia defeated Pitt, 9-8, in a wild and wooly affair at cavernous Three Rivers Stadium.
There were so few people in attendance that a public address announcer wasn’t required. And that’s about all I can recall from the game.
Actually, 10 years from now, I will probably struggle to remember many of the details of this one, too.
* You get a new appreciation for the value of having clearly visible uniform numbers when you are sitting about 10 stories above the playing field.
When not squinting, West Virginia’s uniform choice tonight of gold tops and navy blue bottoms almost looks like the 1979 “We are Family” version of the Pittsburgh Pirates when they frequently wore dark caps, gold tops and dark bottoms.
Meanwhile, Penn State’s all-white uniforms are literally a blur at this distance from the field. My best shot of getting Lion player numbers is with my left eye closed.
And the left is supposedly my better eye!
* It only took 45 minutes to get through the Fort Pitt tubes this evening, or about as long as it takes to circle the Mileground roundabout once at 5 o’clock.
* For those interested, the media meal tonight consisted of potato chips, pretzels, peanuts, popcorn and soda, or, all of the major food groups.
* What is it about these Penn State Nittany Lions that have given West Virginia so much trouble of late? Before tonight’s 4-2 Mountaineer win, the Nittanys had claimed four straight against West Virginia dating back to the 2014 season.
The overall series is also heavily lopsided in Penn State’s favor, PSU winning 71 of 112 games all-time including a 12-8 mark against the Mountaineers since 1990.
It’s not like these guys are running Charlie Pittman, Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, John Cappelletti, Jack Ham, Curt Warner, Blair Thomas, etc., etc. out there like they used to when facing the Mountaineers on the gridiron.
I suppose it’s just one of those crazy things you sometimes see in baseball.
* Probably the most prominent Penn State alum in the major leagues was Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia, although he never suited up for the Nittany Lion baseball team.
The last Penn State player to make the bigs was pitcher Nate Bump, who played parts of three seasons with the Florida Marlins in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
* Logan Goodnight, a freshman infielder from Wheeling who prepped at Linsly, slugged a three-run homer in the second inning of last night’s 6-5 Penn State victory.
Naturally, it was Goodnight’s first home run of the season in more than 160 at bats.
* I continue to be amazed by how many college players these days choose 80s music for their walk-up songs.
West Virginia continues play outside of the Big 12 with a three-game weekend series against Gardner-Webb at Monongalia County Ballpark.
First pitch for Friday’s game is 6:30 p.m.; Saturday’s game will get underway at 4 p.m. and Sunday’s series finale will begin at 1 p.m.