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Penn State baseball: Nittany Lions’ incredible run ends in Big Ten Tournament Championship

After a remarkable run this week, Penn State baseball fell short of its first Big Ten Tournament Championship in heartbreaking fashion on Sunday afternoon.



Penn State baseball, Big Ten Tournament, Nebraska, Mike Gambino
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

After a memorable run in Omaha this week, Penn State baseball saw its winning streak end Sunday, falling to Nebraska 2-1 in the Big Ten Tournament Championship. The Nittany Lions had marked their impressive run with late rallies and come-from-behind victories but ultimately fell just short in a rubber match to the Cornhuskers. The loss ends year one under manager Mike Gambino, who undoubtedly has the program trending in the right direction coming off Penn State’s first conference tournament championship appearance in 24 years.

Nittany Lions fall short in pitchers’ dual

Like they have through much of the tournament, the Nittany Lions got on the board first on Sunday. Joe Jaconski led off the bottom of the first with a walk, eventually advancing to third following singles from Grant Norris and Bryce Molinaro. A botched pickoff attempt at second base allowed Jaconski to score, giving Penn State baseball the 1-0 lead.

From there, the rubber match took over. Nebraska pitcher Jackson Brockett locked in after a rocky first inning, retiring fourteen consecutive Nittany Lion batters until Adam Cecere broke the streak with a double in the sixth inning.

Penn State ace Travis Luensmann was dialed in from the get-go, striking out five of the first nine batters he faced. Luensmann surrendered two hits and no runs through six innings before giving up a solo home run to Josh Caron – a Big Ten Tournament record sixth of the week – in the top of the seventh to tie the game. The senior finished the day with six strikeouts, four hits, and one earned run in seven innings pitched.

Jaden Henline pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief. But the Cornhusker bats found just enough pop in the ninth. After Ben Columbus singled, pinch runner Cayden Brumbaugh stole second on a close call, which was ultimately upheld.

Following a seven-pitch at-bat, Gabe Swanson drilled a line drive into the left field gap, scoring Brumbaugh to put Nebraska up for the first time all afternoon.

The comeback kids throughout the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions did not have one more rally in them. Penn State fell short of its first Big Ten Tournament title, 2-1.

Mike Gambino leads historic season for Penn State baseball

While certainly not ending the way he wanted, Penn State baseball in year one under Mike Gambino exceeded many’s expectations. Obviously, this week’s tournament run was one of the best in program history, reaching the Big Ten Tournament Championship for the first time since 2000.

But from start to finish, Mike Gambino had a remarkably successful first season in Happy Valley. With 29 wins, Gambino has the most wins by a first-year manager in Penn State baseball history, surpassing Robbie Wine’s 28 in 2005. He also became only the second coach in Big Ten history to lead his team to the conference tournament title game in his first season.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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