By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Instead of waking up in a hotel and taking a bus to an opposing team's field like they've done for the past 28 games they've played, the Nittany Lions were able to get out of their own beds and some could even walk to Beard Field where they opened their home season against in-state rival Pittsburgh on Tuesday afternoon.
Penn State split the twinbill against the Panthers, dropping the first game of the afternoon 7-2 but bouncing back in the second with a 4-0 victory that snapped what had been a 13-game losing streak.
Freshman hurler Marissa Diescher got the nod in the second contest of
the day after senior ace Lisa Akamine tossed the first seven innings of play
against the Panthers. Behind solid defense and timely offensive production,
Diescher tossed a two-hit shutout under the afternoon sun.
Diescher's teammate and junior centerfielder Cassidy Bell provided the spark at the very start of the second game of the day with a lead-off home run against Pittsburgh's Alexa Larkin. That run would be the only number on the board for either of the two teams until the Nittany Lions struck again in the sixth.
But with a tough infield behind her and a mix of outfielders that battled the rays looming over Nittany Lion Softball Park, Diescher said that one run was enough to get her going.
"It was great," said Diescher. "Usually that's not a lot to feel comfortable on but after that [run] I knew I had to kind of keep them off of the board and I knew we'd come through in the end."
The freshman right-hander struck out three and walked six en route to the much-needed win and said she was mostly reliant on hitting spots on the outer half of the plate in the 28 Panther at-bats that she faced.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions made it look effortless with no errors and 21 put-outs in the field. Diescher said that she was trying to keep Pittsburgh off balance at the plate with a mixture of off-speed pitches and fastballs on every corner of the plate to produce what were nine weak ground balls for easy Penn State outs.
After the win, Bell said that head coach Robin Petrini was all smiles in the dugout as she had a few words of congratulations for her team.
"Take a breath - it's over," Bell said, echoing her head coach. "We got the 'W' and we won and that's all that matters right now."
Bell said that the four runs she and her teammates produced and the solid pitching that Diescher provided off of the mound were something that fans and spectators should take note of.
"We felt this was a very important win to get," said Bell. "We were just concentrated on trying to jump on it first and keep the energy up - keep all of the positive attitude and keep fighting. We've been fighting for basically the whole season and I feel like it's finally dropping in for us now."
The win gives the Nittany Lions an 8-22 overall mark this season and prevented the team from tying what would have been the longest losing-streak in the program's history had they lost.
The opening pair of contests against the Panthers was the first two of ten consecutive games that Penn State will get to host in State College. Next up, the Nittany Lions welcome Michigan State to Bear Field for their third conference series of the season this coming weekend.