By Sean Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Wednesday afternoon, Penn State (12-30, 2-14 Big Ten) relied on its clutch hitting and pitching to weather two different types of storms to capture a non-conference victory over the Golden Flashes of Kent State (21-17-1).
It was the first at-bat in the bottom of the first inning in game one of what was supposed to be a double-header, when senior Cassidy Bell connected on a pitch sending it over the wall in left field. However, following the solo-blast from Bell, the Lions began to struggle and opposing pitcher Emma Johnson settled in for the Golden Flashes.
Following Bell's homerun, the Nittany Lions only managed to register one more hit, while Johnson tallied nine strikeouts against the Lions.
"She [Johnson] really has a really nice rise ball," said Penn State head coach Robin Petrini. "It's just kind of a sneaky rise ball and I told her [Kent State's head coach] that no one has made us look that bad all year. We've only been shut out four times and we've hit just about everybody. It was just a smooth rise ball and she did a great job."
Johnson put together a flurry of strikeouts, including four in a row at one point in the game, but the Nittany Lions never gave in despite their frustrations.
"I think it's hard on the pitchers, especially if were not hitting the ball," said Bell. "It kind of puts more pressure on them to make sure they keep the hits from not happening. We started making adjustments and started making contact with the ball, we just weren't getting anywhere with it."
While the Lions struggled at the plate, they persevered through the struggles. However, while the Blue and White offense didn't light up the box score, neither did Kent States until they evened the score at one run apiece in the fifth inning. However, shortly after the Golden Flashes gained momentum, Penn State received a blessing in the form of a thunderstorm. It was an hour and a half delay, which cancelled the second game, but it might have been just what the Lions needed. Petrini stated that the break from action allowed the team to gather themselves.
"I actually pulled them together and told them that they had to refocus. It's really tough coming out of rain delays and I saw people were doing all sorts of different things in our team room and I actually waited until it started raining to send them into the team room because when you go into the team room you get distracted. I pulled them together and said you got to refocus because we need this win and they did. They did a really nice job."
Following the delay, Penn State came out hot, especially one Lion in particular, Jordan Wheatley. The junior sat down the Kent State batters in order during the top of the sixth.
"I think I have been finding the strike zone easier," said Wheatley. "I think I just had a switch in my brain and it's time to get it done. It's the end of the season and we got to get ready for the Big Ten Tournament."
Following the tremendous pitching effort by Wheatley, the Lions came through with some clutch at-bats. With Cassidy Bell on second base and no outs, freshman Macy Jones stepped up to the plate and delivered a much-needed RBI single.
"We did need to score runs and it was a very tight game," said Bell. "We just had clutch hitting like when Macy [Jones] got that hit right when we needed another run and that's all you need. We were very efficient today."
Bell uses the word 'efficient' to describe the Lions two-hit, two-run victory and that is exactly what it was. When you receive a four-hit, one-run outing from Wheatley on the mound, two runs is all it takes.
Moving forward, the Lions will travel to Iowa (24-21, 4-13 Big Ten) for the teams' last road series of the season. The Hawkeyes are another team struggling to find conference wins this season having lost six straight to Big Ten opponents. With only two series remaining before the Big Ten tournament starts, the Lions would love to gather more momentum and build upon the gritty, grind-it-out victory the team captured Wednesday afternoon.
The three-game series versus Iowa is set to begin this Friday afternoon at 6 p.m. CT in Iowa City, Iowa.
Lions Weather Storm for Gritty Win; Head to Iowa
By Sean Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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