By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State fell down early Friday evening, as Marlaina Laubach uncharacteristically allowed five runs in the first two innings. Despite the early runs, the tides turned quickly for the Blue & White thanks to the long ball and some clutch hits.
The team took a 6-5 lead in the third inning, then lost, and regained the lead again to take the win. After being down 9-6 in the sixth inning, the Blue & White plated three in that inning, and would find themselves in an extra-inning battle tied at 9. In the bottom of the eighth, Tori Dubois hit Penn State's third home run of the game, this time, a two-run walk-off to end it. Head coach Amanda Lehotak was proud of her team after fighting the entire game and getting the 11-9 win.
"I've told them a few times this year that they've impressed me in a lot of different areas, and their fight and their belief in one another is the most amazing thing that I've seen," said Lehotak.
Player of the Game
Ziegler ripped an absolute moonshot in the second inning, crushing a homer right over the 220-feet sign in dead centerfield. That home run was a momentum-booster, as that cut the deficit to just one run. Penn State would later take the lead before giving up four runs in the fifth inning. In the sixth inning, Ziegler roped a line drive into the gap and made it all the way to third, driving in a run in the process. Lehotak knows she is fortunate to have Ziegler's ability in the leadoff slot.
"I think the leadoff spot in an offensive lineup is one of the most important parts so if you can have somebody that's a triple threat like her, speed, slap, hit a home run, hit doubles, she's just hard to defend," said Lehotak.
As for her solid day at the plate, Ziegler said, "I just felt more in my zone, felt more relaxed, as long as I stay composed and stay within myself, that's when I get it done," said Ziegler.
- Clutch hitting - Penn State did a nice job of not stranding runners on base. In the second, Christa Wagner blooped a single down the right field line to score Gianna Arrizurietta who singled and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Ziegler's blast came with a runner on, and in the third inning, Delaney Elling came up big with a two-run single to give her team a 6-5 advantage. Down 9-6 in the sixth inning, Toni Polk singled up the middle to score Ziegler from third, making it just 9-8 in favor of the Scarlet Knights. Finally, Tori Dubois homered to win the game.
- Five-tool player - Kristina Brackpool showed some of her versatility on Friday night. She knocked a home run over the left-centerfield fence, and put her name in the Penn State record books, becoming ninth all-time in program history with 19 career home runs. She also laid down a sacrifice bunt in the third inning, allowing runners to advance to second and third for Elling, who drove both home. In the fifth, she nearly notched her 20th career dinger, flying out to the warning track in right field.
- Hardcore fans - Blue & White weekend was felt at Beard Field Friday night, as a group of fans stood shirtless in the front row of the stands on the third base side, each with a letter painted on their chests spelling "Go State!" It's that kind of dedication that makes Blue & White weekend special.
The excitement continues in game two of the three-game series on Saturday, when Curtin road will be closed off for a Blue & White parade and celebration before the game. The team is expecting a sellout crowd for Saturday's 5 o'clock contest, and the area will be rocking with the spring football game and a baseball game against Northwestern all taking place at the same time. Penn State (19-25, 5-10) will look to continue its climb up the Big Ten conference standings.