Walkoff double lifts PSU-Altoona
Lions gets first win in NCAA tournament play in any sport
MARIETTA, Ohio — Not once did pitcher Trevor Conner doubt his Penn State-Altoona teammates would get going offensively Thursday. Neither did Cord Heine.
Just as it has done time and again throughout the 2011 season, Penn State-Altoona had a big inning late in a game to come from behind and win.
Heine delivered a two-run walkoff double to left to lift the Lions to a 3-2 victory against third-seeded Adrian at the Division III Mideast Regional at Don Schaly Stadium.
Trailing 2-0, the Lions rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
"This is not the first time this has happened," said Conner, who improved to 9-2, tying the single-season record for most wins in a season by a Penn State-Altoona pitcher. "Knock on wood, we've yet to get shut out all season. I know if I can keep it close we're going to score some runs."
The victory is the first NCAA tournament win for Altoona in any sport. Conner said it was like any other victory, but his coach respectfully disagreed.
"This is huge for our program and our school," said coach Joe Piotti. "This gives our program a little more respect in the region. We've worked at earning that respect in our conference and these guys want to do the same in the region."
Entering the bottom of the ninth, it looked like the No. 7 seeded Lions' stay in Marietta was going to be short lived.
The loss eliminates Adrian from the tournament, as it imploded in the ninth inning for the second time in as many days.
Adrian's David Partyka (8-2) was throwing a gem, but he appeared to run out of gas in the final inning.
After pulling a hot pitcher the day before and losing in the ninth to Case Western Reserve on a grand slam, Rainey decided to ride the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year on Thursday.
"He gave us our best chance to win," Rainey said. "We have to do a better job of scoring runs. We put up four and two. That doesn't give you a lot of chances to win."
In the ninth, Matt Schmauder led off with a single center and Tyler Stiffler followed with a single to right setting the stage for the shocking comeback.
Leadoff hitter Jimmy Baum drove home Altoona's first run with a single down the left-field line that scored Schmauder. Stiffler advanced to third and Baum reached second on the throw.
Despite two pitchers warming up in the pen, Adrian (31-11) stuck with Partyka who got Tom Kelly to ground out to first. Grady Luzier was intentionally walked to load the bases and Heine delivered on the first pitch he saw from Partyka.
"I'm a high-ball hitter and he got one up and I tried to do the best I could with it," said Heine, who went 2 for 5.
Heine said the Lions (29-12) are playing loose because no one really expects much from them.
"We're sitting at the seven seed in a really hard regional," he said. "We just want to show we can play with these guys."
While Heine was the hitting star, the Lions banged out 10 hits. Baum led the way with a 3 for 5 performance that included a double, while Nate Bennett went 2 for 2 with a double.
Conner's pitching performance can't be overlooked either.
The junior kept Adrian's powerful lineup off balance all game. He scattered six hits and allowed just one earned run while striking out four.
Adrian's Brian Bilius and Michael Herzog were the only Bulldogs to manage multiple hits off of Conner as each went 2 for 3.
"We're battled tested because our league was like this," Piotti said. "These nine-inning games are different. We usually respond in the eighth, but this time it was the ninth. We're excited and ready to come back and play again tonight."
The Bulldogs scored first, getting a run in the top of the third inning with the help of a Penn State-Altoona error. Kyle Strawn led off the inning by reaching on an infield error, and he ultimately came around to score on Brian Bilius' RBI single.
Adrian made it 2-0 when Bilius led off the inning with a walk and scored later in the inning on Jake Capelletty's RBI groundout.