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Late Game Heroics Lift Penn State Past Bucknell

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By Anna Pitingolo, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two late game rallies gave Penn State the doubleheader sweep over Bucknell on Wednesday evening with 1-0 and 6-5 wins. 

The Nittany Lions got big hits from some different contributors in both games to put runs on the board when they needed it most. Delaney Elling, Toni Polk, and Christa Wagner all had two-plus hits in the fourth inning or later.

"It's kind of been our thing all year, we've had some heroes and everybody's been a hero at some point," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "I think it just shows their work ethic, their belief and really, if you're a starter or non-starter, it's probably one of the hardest working groups we've ever had and I think that's really showing." 

Penn State was down early in game two, trailing 5-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. But the Nittany Lions scored five runs in the final two frames, including a two-run homerun and 3 RBI from Elling and it was Elling who hit the single that scored Polk to send the game into extra innings.

Wagner scored two runs of her own when she came in as a pinch hitter for Mia Monopoli in the seventh. The freshman was 2-for-2 and scored the winning run off of Rebecca Ziegler's single in the eighth inning.

"Without Wagner, we don't tie it in the seventh and then come back to win it in the eighth," Lehotak said. "She's been working her tail off these past two months, so everything that she did today was completely earned. It was just waiting for her time and she got her time and she capitalized."

Lehotak noticed a visible change in her team's attitude heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, and credits that to the come-from-behind win. 

"I don't really know what it was, I think it happened defensively. But something, all of a sudden, the energy was authentic," Lehotak said. "I could feel that we were going to score runs, I don't really know how to explain it and I didn't necessarily expect it, but they did a great job. It's all about the fight, we just kept fighting."

Polk was the hero in game one, going 2-for-3, including an RBI triple to give Penn State the win in the opening game. 

Polk's triple came in the sixth inning when she rocketed a fly ball off the right field wall to score Ziegler from first. The ball was perfectly placed - a foot and a half to the right and it would have been foul. It was her third triple of the season and was her second hit of the game, giving her two of Penn State's three hits in game one. 

Polk also had a hand in the seventh inning comeback in game two, forcing an error at shortstop before advancing to second on the throw. The play scored Wagner to bring the Lions within two.

"We believed in each other as a team and especially [Madison] Shaffer fired us all up because she was throwing such a good game so I think that changed the momentum a lot," Polk said. "If a pitcher is doing a great job, it's the offenses job to score runs and help them groove even more so it's really important to score more runs to back good pitching."

The game one win ended a four game skid for the Lions, who hadn't won since they upset No. 25 Ohio State a week ago, 2-1.

Penn State continues its seven-game homestead into the weekend, when it hosts Rutgers during Blue-White Weekend. The three game series starts Friday with game one set for a 6 p.m. start.

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