The Blue Hens baseball team finished an 11-game homestead, going 9-2 with a three-game sweep of Penn State. This marks the first time since 2001 that Delaware has swept a Power 5 opponent.
The key to Saturday’s doubleheader was a pair of impressive starts by Brandon Walter and captain Nick Spadafino. Walter twirled an absolute gem in the first game, striking out a career-high 17 batters in eight shutout innings and allowing one walk. The sophomore southpaw took a no-hitter into his seventh inning of work before allowing a hit, the only one Penn State could manage against him all game. The offense was jolted by a huge seventh inning in which the Hens exploded for five insurance runs, highlighted by a pair of two-run doubles by Kevin Mohollen and Doug Trimble.
Walter’s performance earned him the CAA Pitcher of the Week award and one of eight Collegiate Baseball National Players of the Week
Manager Jim Sherman was very impressed with his team’s performance on Saturday but generously praised his game one starter.
“Walter’s start in the first game is as good a pitching performance as I have seen in my 31-year coaching career,” Sherman said. “His stuff was electric and all four pitches were working well.”
In game two, the Hens sent Spadafino to the mound and he responded with yet another good performance. The junior threw six shutout innings, allowing only a couple of singles in the fourth inning. Spadafino struck out five and walked just one batter. In the seventh inning, Trimble came up big again smacking a two run homerun to extend the lead to 5-0 and Matt Hornich threw three scoreless innings out of the bullpen. The lefty closed out the game, earning his first career save.
“Spadafino is starting to come full-circle,” Sherman said after game two. “He’s fully figured out his release point, what all of his pitches need to do and how to make adjustments when things don’t completely work out. His growth and maturity are finally starting to shine. I’m really happy that the results are coming because he’s worked really hard.”
After steamrolling the Nittany Lions on day one, the Hens went into Sunday looking to bust out the brooms for the sweep of Penn State, and they did just that. Following up on Walter’s career performance, Delaware starter Kevin Milley also set a career high in strikeouts with nine scattered over seven innings. Kyle Hinton and Colman Vila would combine with Milley out of the bullpen to complete the game and hold Penn State to only three hits.
In the bottom of the seventh, third baseman Diaz Nardo got the Hens started with a booming leadoff double. Penn State pitchers walked Mohollen and Nick Tierno to load the bases for Jordan Glover. With one swing of the bat, Glover cleared the bases with a grand slam, his fourth home run of the year. The Hens went on to win the game 8-0.
The Hens outscored Penn State 19-1 in the series and led for 24 out of the 27 innings. The Blue Hens struck out a combined 35 batters in the three games.
The Blue Hens will be off until this Friday when they travel to James Madison to face the 14-4 Dukes, opening up CAA conference play.
“Going into next weekend, we just need to get the good pitching and the timely hitting that we got this weekend,” Sherman said. “Diaz Nardo is starting to heat up and the middle of the order has been solid. At the top of the order, Kevin Mohollen has been just unbelievable in terms of getting on base and being a catalyst for us.”
Delaware’s first game will be on Friday March 24 at 6 p.m. in Harrisonburg, Va. against the Dukes.