Zbezinski Leads Lions Past Rochester in NCAA Baseball Regional

Zbezinski Leads Lions Past Rochester in NCAA Baseball Regional

Courtesy of John Leisering

MARIETTA, Ohio - The Penn State Behrend Lions avoided elimination and ended Rochester's season with a resounding 11-1 win over the Yellowjackets Friday on day two of the D3 baseball Regional. The Lions improved to 26-12 while Rochester, a 9-6 loser to Marietta yesterday, finished the campaign at 24-10. The start of the game was delayed 35 minutes by rain. The baseball contest was the first ever between the two schools.

The Lions, limited to one run by No. 1 seed Rowan Thursday, scored three times in the first against Rochester starter, Trevor Van Allen (3-2). With one out, Anthony Slate (Hopewell, PA/Hopewell) and Josh Wagner (South Park, PA/South Park) singled. After Colin Harger (Pittsburgh, PA/Shaler) popped out, Isaac Stouffer (Punxsutawney, PA/Punxsutawney) notched his team-leading 22nd walk to load the bases. A wild pitch cost Van Allen and the Yellowjackets a run. Juston Jones (Moon Township, PA/Moon) then stroked a two-out, two-run double to left center.

The Lions added to their lead in the third. Wagner led off with a double to right. Following an infield grounder, Stouffer doubled over the center fielder's head to plate Wagner and Jones made it 5-0 with a RBI hit to right. Van Allen was replaced by Dillon Bevan who got out of the inning without further damage.

Penn State Behrend got to Bevan in the home fifth. The Lions loaded the bases with no outs on base hits by Harger and Jones, sandwiched around a walk to Stouffer. CJ Weller (Sewickley, PA/North Allegheny) knocked in a run with an RBI single while Tanner Cicchini (Pittsburgh, PA/Upper St. Clair) plated a second on an infield grounder.

Lions' starter Thomas Zbezinski (Gibsonia, PA/Pine-Richland) (8-1) breezed through the first five frames, allowing only two hits while striking out nine. The Yellowjackets finally dented the scoreboard in the sixth when sophomore Aaron Whitley hit a lead-off homer, his fifth of the campaign. Behrend retaliated immediately against Rochester's second relief pitcher, Nathan Slenska, in the bottom of the inning when Slate doubled and ultimately scored on a wild pitch.

The Lions pushed the lead to 10-1 in the seventh when Weller and Zack Bowen (Pittsburgh, PA/Serra Catholic) singled against Slenska and Paulinellie smashed a two-run triple to left center.

Rochester's fourth pitcher of the day, Nolan Sparks, worked the eighth and allowed an unearned run when Jones drove in Harger with his fourth hit and fourth RBI of the day. The Lions had at least one hit in every inning but the second and stranded eight. Zbezinski surrendered only three hits, fanned eleven, walked one and hit a batter. He threw 144 pitches, 103 strikes.

After totaling five runs in the first inning against Marietta Thursday, Rochester scored only two more in its final 17 innings.

The Lions must wait until later in the day to determine both their next opponent and Saturday game time. The rest of Friday's schdule was put on hold because of inclement weather.

This is Penn State Behrend's 6th trip to the NCAAs, the first since 2013. This was Rochester's fifth appearance and second straight.

McDowell High School principal Brian Fuller called balls-and-strikes in Behrend's Thursday game against Rowan and worked second base in its game with Rochester today.

Former Pirate reliever Kent Tekulve is a late 60's Marietta College alum. The Pioneers' press box is part of the "Kent Tekulve Media Bldg".

The Marietta College baseball field sits adjacent Mulholland Drive, named for Pioneers' alum and former major league pitcher Terry Mulholland, who contributed to the installation of the field's lights.

Head Coach Paul Benim post-game: "Zbezinski has been doing this all season for us. I'm not at all surprised at his effort today."

Starting pitcher Thomas Zbezinski post-game: "I felt good warming up and had great control. All my pitches – fastball, curve, change, and splitter - were working today."

DH Juston Jones post-game: " I felt good at the plate today and was getting the barrel on the ball. It felt great to get three in the first but we felt we needed more."