Muha Leaves Baseball "In Good Hands" Against Penn State Berks

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - page 2

Whether it’s Allstate, State Farm or Geico, insurance is always a good thing to have for peace of mind.

And for the Muhlenberg baseball team against Penn State Berks, junior John Muha was quite the good neighbor as he delivered a key two-out RBI in the top of the ninth that proved to be the game-winner as the Mules escaped a jam in the bottom of the frame to beat the Nittany Lions, 9-8.

John Muha
Muha’s four RBI tied his career high. It was his third multiple-RBI game of the season.
Muha’s fourth RBI of the day drove home freshman Chris Manfredonia, who had reached on a two-out, two-base error, to put Muhlenberg up by two.

But Penn State Berks rallied in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases and eventually moving the potential game-winning run into scoring position, before junior Ryan Rechten struck out the side looking to give the Mules their 10th win of the season and first in Pennsylvania. It’s tied for the quickest they have reached double digit victories since the 1928 team went 11-0.

“I didn’t think we were going to need a run in the top of the ninth to win it, but that’s what happened,” Muha said. “We came out on fire, but then we cooled off too much. We need to keep playing at a high level all nine innings so we don’t have to sweat games out in the end.”

After waiting until the ninth inning to score on Tuesday, the Mules wasted no time getting out in front. Freshman Jimmy Cody led off the game with a triple to right center and scored one pitch later on Muha’s groundout.

The Mules (10-3) tacked on another run when senior Nick Busillo scored on an RBI single by sophomore Nick Kennedy. All nine starters picked up a hit, including three for Muha and two each for Cody, Busillo, Kennedy and sophomore John Scuderi.

Mike Speroni
Speroni has not allowed a hit in three innings of work this season.
The Nittany Lions got on the board with a single run in the bottom of the third, which seemed to set the Mules off in the fourth.

After Manfredonia brought home classmate Nick Plinio with a single between first and second, Muha, junior Joseph Vila and Busillo belted back-to-back-to-back doubles to put the Mules up 7-1. Vila has hit safely in all 13 games this spring and in 16 straight dating back to last season.

Busillo swiped third and then scored when Scuderi singled to center to cap the six-run frame. It was the seventh time this season the Mules scored at least five runs in an inning, one more than they had all of last year.

But Penn State Berks battled back, splitting four runs between the fifth and sixth and plating two before making an out in the seventh. That’s when senior Mike Speroni took the hill and got a little help from a heads-up defensive call.

With runners at the corners and one out, the Mules called for a perfectly timed pitchout as the runner on first took off for second. But instead of throwing to the bag, sophomore Brett Rosen threw to Scuderi, who cut the throw off in the grass as the runner on third broke for home. The Mules caught him in a rundown for the second out of the inning.

Speroni then struck out the final batter to get out of the jam and retired the side in order in the eighth to set the stage for the wild ninth.

Muha said working on first-and-third situations is one of the most tedious, yet necessary, parts of practice. But after the huge momentum shift against the Nittany Lions, he thinks everyone will find a little more joy the next time the Mules work on them.

“We practice those plays all the time,” he said. “And honestly, they’re not the most fun part of practice. But as we all saw today, they can make a big difference in close games.

“You could kind of feel the momentum starting to shift a little bit, and their dugout started to get louder. But Speroni came in and shut them down. He really stepped up like a senior leader should today. This just shows how to need to keep playing hard until the very end. They came back, but we made the plays when we needed to to get the win.”
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