DeLand, Fla. - Connor Cuff threw six strong innings and a comeback in the middle innings took it to extras, but Georgia State was able to escape with a 4-3 win in 11 innings on Saturday afternoon in Penn's second game of the Bright House Invitational, hosted by Stetson University.
Starters Cuff and Justin Malone of GSU set the tone from the get-go, each striking out two in the first inning. The game remained scoreless until there were two outs in the bottom of the 3rd when a two-out single from the Panthers' Roy Seltenrijch gave Georgia State life. With a hit and run on, GSU lead-off man Kody Adams doubled to the wall in right field, bringing around Seltenrijch for a 1-0 lead before Cuff struck out his fifth batter to bring the inning to a close.
Penn came right back in the top of the 4th, as Kyle Toomey singled to left field on the first pitch of the inning and worked his way into scoring position with a stolen base. Back in the line-up after missing Penn's season opener, Greg Zebrack advanced Toomey to third with a soft roller up the middle for the first out. Two batters later, Ryan Deitrich brought Toomey in with a deep sac fly to center field, knotting the score at 1-1.
The tie was short-lived as Georgia State loaded the bases in the bottom half without the ball leaving the infield. The frame began with Brandon Williams topping a ball back towards Cuff racing in from the pitcher's mound. Cuff bobbled the ball and threw wide to allow Williams to reach. He then stole second and Mark Hogan drew a five-pitch walk to put two men on. Jonathan Kolowich bunted towards Spencer Branigan, who looked to go to third to get the force out of the lead runner. When that option wasn't available, he threw too late to 1st base, and Kolowich was safe.
Batting in the 6-hole, Landon Bennett drove a ground ball towards Rick Brebner at third who dove and snagged the ball, stepped on 3rd base for one force out, then tried to throw home to get the advancing runner. He his throw sailed high however, and Austin Bossart took a hit at the plate from Williams who was safe on the play, making it 2-1. Cuff escaped any further damage with a strikeout and another grounder to Brebner who tagged third for the final out of the 4th.
Four innings closed the book on GSU starter Malone, who was lifted for Tyler Claburn in the fifth and promptly set the Quakers down in order. Georgia State extended the lead in the bottom half when a one-out triple brought Adams around from second for a 3-1 GSU advantage. Again, Cuff worked his way out of trouble, this time with runners on the corners. Still with only one away in the inning, Cuff had Hogan picked off of first but once Branigan threw to Derek Vigoa at second base, the senior alertly threw home to Bossart who got the tag in on Williams in time. Cuff's seventh K closed the fifth inning.
Penn was able to bring the score even over the course of the next two innings. In the sixth, Zebrack singled and then scored on a Branigan double to right-center, making it 3-2. Then in the seventh, DH Matt McKinnon drew a walk and was lifted for pinch-runner James Mraz. Head Coach John Cole's move was rewarded when Bossart doubled to the wall in left field in the next at-bat, driving around Mraz and sending the teams into the stretch all square at 3-3.
The game turned into a battle of bullpens late as Penn sophomore Cody Thomson and freshmen Dan Gautieri and Ronnie Glenn matched Georgia State's Hunter Cash inning for scoreless inning. Glenn ended both the 9th and 10th innings with 6-4-3 double plays but the Penn offense came up empty in the late stages. In the top of the 11th, Brebner reached on an infield single and then stole second base, but he was eventually stranded after a strikeout and fly out.
A lead-off walk by back-up catcher Joel Van Asch in the bottom of the 11th started the eventual winning rally. After a fielder's choice from Glenn (0-1)to Toomey covering second put one away in the inning for Penn, a botched pickoff attempt allowed Daniel Blaustein to move from first to third. Caden Bailey struck out for GSU's second out of the inning, but with a 3-0 count on Adams, Glenn's ball four sailed high over the head of Bossart at home, allowing Blaustein to race in from third for the walk-off win.
Bossart (2-for-5, 1 RBI) and Zebrack (2-for-4) collected multiple hits in the game as Penn recorded nine as a team.
Penn completes the Bright House Invitational tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. against the Southern Illinois Salukis before traveling to Winter Haven, Fla. for five games atthe Russ Matt Tournament.
Download: GSU Box Score.pdf