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Late homer dooms Spartans against Penn State

May 17, 2012
Senior pitcher Tony Bucciferro winds up for a pitch during a game against Penn State on May 17, 2012. The Spartans lost 3-2. Julia Nagy/The State News
Senior pitcher Tony Bucciferro winds up for a pitch during a game against Penn State on May 17, 2012. The Spartans lost 3-2. Julia Nagy/The State News —
Photo by Julia Nagy | and Julia Nagy The State News

Even after a career filled with memories and records etched in MSU baseball lore, Tony Bucciferro wanted to provide the fans and his teammates with something to remember him by in his final start at McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field.

Unfortunately, Jordan Steranka and Penn State had other ideas.

The senior pitcher put together another strong start coming off a complete game shutout of Iowa last week, allowing six hits and striking out nine in 6.2 innings, but a late home run by Steranka was enough to best the MSU baseball team 3-2 on Thursday afternoon.

Steranka’s home run came after Bucciferro was pulled from the game in favor of sophomore Jeff Kinley in the seventh inning — a decision that ultimately cost the Spartans the game.

“I’m always going to be against (getting pulled) but I understood it; I respected it and it was a good call lefty-on-lefty,” Bucciferro said. “Kinley’s been doing good all year. It was a close game at that too. I understood it and I had no problem coming out. The competitor in me wants to stay out there, as I said before. But I understood it and I was OK with it.”

Steranka’s home run on top of another stagnant day on offense played a major part in the Spartans dropping game one of the three-game series against Penn State. The Spartans were able to get 10 hits on the day but also left 10 runners on base and couldn’t string together hits when they needed to, head coach Jake Boss Jr. said.

And for Boss, the loss was one of wasted opportunities by his offense, the bullpen and himself.

“I didn’t put our guys in a position to be successful,” Boss said. “There’s no way we should have pitched to that guy with an open base. Got talked out of it the first time and we didn’t execute a pitch and he hurt us. I didn’t learn from the mistake the second time and he made us pay for it so give their guy credit.”

The Spartans loaded the bases with the first three batters before getting on the board first against Penn State. On the second pitch of the at-bat, junior third baseman Torsten Boss grounded into a double play but not before scoring junior second baseman Ryan Jones to give MSU the 1-0 lead.

With the bases loaded again the fifth, MSU picked up another run on an RBI single to the left side by junior left fielder Jordan Keur, scoring Jones and extending the lead.

However, the Nittany Lions battled back, starting with a leadoff single by left fielder Sean Deegan in the sixth. With Deegan and center fielder Steve Snyder aboard, Steranka singled to right field to score Deegan on the play. The Spartans limited the damage, though, as junior right fielder John Martinez gunned down Snyder on the play to keep MSU ahead by a run.

Steranka’s two-run home run in the eighth was his eleventh of the season and it was more than enough to down the Spartans on Thursday.

The Spartans return to action at 1:05 p.m. on Friday at home before closing out the series at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday against the Nittany Lions, with an opportunity for the second place spot in the Big Ten standings and secure a bye in the Big Ten Tournament up for grabs.

“We’re looking for a big outing from Andrew Waszak tomorrow,” senior shortstop Justin Scanlon said. “Hopefully he comes in here and pitches as well as Tony did and gives us a chance to win. Hopefully the bats wake up a little bit and we take advantage of those opportunities we created in the game.”

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