PALMYRA, Pa. – For much of Penn State Harrisburg's game against Muhlenberg on Sunday afternoon, Mar. 16, it looked as if the visitors were on the verge of blowing out the Lions. Then, in the seventh inning of the teams' single game outing, the Blue & White showed the type of heart expected from a reigning conference champion. While the Lions ultimately fell to the Mules 10-7 at Palmyra's In the Net Sports Complex, the display provided a jolt that was absent during the first quarter of Penn State Harrisburg's 2014 campaign.
Trailing 7-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Lions refused to be left for dead. Junior John Cataldo (Pine Grove, Pa. / Pine Grove) worked a walk to lead off the stanza and a bunt by sophomore Bryan Balshy (Palmyra, Pa. / Palmyra Area) was mishandled by Muhlenberg's pitcher, allowing Cataldo to advance to second base. Junior Jim Murphy's (Drexel Hill, Pa. / Monsignor Bonner) groundout advanced both men and a sacrifice fly by freshman Tyler Smink (Harleysville, Pa. / North Penn) scored Cataldo to cut the deficit to 7-2.
Freshman pitcher Nate Packer (Waymart, Pa. / Western Wayne) worked through the top of the seventh and struck out two Muhlenberg batters, putting the sticks back in the hands of his hitters. Patience paid off for senior Travis Crammer (Cerritos, Calif. / Cerritos) and freshman Tom Denniston (Harrisburg, Pa. / Bishop McDevitt) as both men worked back-to-back walks to begin the bottom of the inning. Junior Jim Quinn (Thornton, Pa. / Garnet Valley) made the Mules pay for the free bases when he laced his second home run of the season over the left field fence. His three-run shot drew the Lions to within two runs at 7-5. Balshy saved his best at-bat of the season for his hometown faithful when he cranked his first home run of the year, a solo shot, over the left field wall and cut the deficit to 7-6. Just like that, the Blue & White were back in the thick of things.
In the top of the eighth, however, Muhlenberg took advantage of two Penn State Harrisburg walks, two hit by pitches, a wild pitch and an error and put up three more runs to push the team's advantage to 10-6.
The Lions weren't done. Freshman Logan Hall (Sunbury, Pa. / Shikellamy) doubled to left field to begin the bottom of the eighth and advanced to third base on a Denniston ground ball. Hall was aggressive on the base paths and eventually scored thanks to Muhlenberg passed ball. His run drew Penn State Harrisburg to within three runs at 10-7.
Unfortunately, the Blue & White failed to battle all the way back. In defeat, however, the Lions proved their ability is there. Moving forward, it's all about the execution.
Hall was 3-4 against the Mules with a double, a stolen base and a run scored. Quinn's three RBIs led the Lions while Crammer went 1-3 with two walks and two runs scored. Freshman pitcher Alex Repa (Harrisburg, Pa. / Bishop McDevitt) threw the ninth inning for Penn State Harrisburg and sat down Muhlenberg batters 1-2-3 while striking out two batters.
The loss dropped Penn State Harrisburg to 3-11 on the season and the Lions currently find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing-streak. The Blue & White will look to put an end to the skid when they travel south to take on Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) foe York (Pa.) on Tuesday afternoon, Mar. 18.
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