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Clutch Hitting Leads Nittany Lions to Win

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Coming off a split vs. Kent State during the first two games of the series on Saturday, Penn State won Sunday afternoon after scoring seven runs in the final three innings and completing an improbable comeback. The Nittany Lions used a four-run bottom of the 7th to force extra innings before hitting a walk-off in the 9th.

"I'm really proud of my kids fight today, they never gave up," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "I know it wasn't pretty in some areas of the game, but they continued to fight. It was good to see our offense rise to the occasion. We do fight, and we play hard, so it's good to see something go our way."

 The Blue and White set season highs in runs (11) and hits (14) and are now 2-1 since returning to Nittany Lion Softball Park. 

Here are some takeaways from the rubber match between the Nittany Lions and Golden Flashes. 

Clutch Hitting
Penn State's offense thrived in crunch time on Sunday. With two runners on and nobody out in the bottom of the 7th inning, junior outfielder Toni Polk hit a 3-run homerun to cut the Kent State lead to 8-7. Polk finished the contest with a team-high three hits and four RBIs.

"When Toni came up with the big homerun in that situation, it was awesome," Lehotak said. "That's kind of been what we've been waiting for all year. We've seen the clutch hitting in practice, but we finally got to see them relax and come through (in a game)."

 Polk wasn't the only Nittany Lion to come up big when the team needed it most. With two outs in the 7th and Penn State still down a run, freshman Haley Vallejos was called upon to pinch-hit, and came up with a crucial base hit. That led to the game-tying wild pitch shortly after.

"My favorite part of it is that we had clutch hitting all night," Lehotak added. "We had a huge pinch hit at bat by Haley Vallejos. For her to come in and do that is great." 

After both teams scored two runs in the 8th inning, Penn State once again got a clutch hit, this time by junior outfielder Tori Dubois. With freshman Dani Fey on second base after a leadoff double, Dubois lined a single to the outfield, scoring Fey and giving Penn State a well-deserved victory. 

"We knew as soon as we went down that we had the fight to come back," Dubois said. "We've been down a lot this year, so we knew what we had to do to get back."

Dubois added: "I think it's been a big weekend for us. We were home for the first time and everyone was hitting very well today. Everyone was producing, and we just went out there and had a good time." 

Patience at the Plate
After drawing a combined nine walks over the first two games of the series, Penn State once again showed its tremendous patience at the plate. The Nittany Lions drew nine more walks to go along with only one strikeout Sunday at the dish. 

"I think we're getting disciplined. We made some changes this week at practice and I think it worked," Lehotak said. "I think it was the most relaxed I've seen our offense. I felt like they settled in, while the first few weeks I feel like we were pressing. When you press you're not going to see the ball well and you're going to have high strikeouts. This was the first weekend I felt like they breathed and were more themselves."

 Golden Gloves
Although the team's offense got all the credit in the 11-10 victory, the Blue and White's fielding was also terrific. The team had no errors and came up with numerous big plays in the field, especially first basemen Delaney Elling. 

"Delaney definitely provides a lot of energy from first base," Dubois said.

Player of the Day- Tori Dubois
On top of her game-winning RBI single in the 9th, Dubois also added a double and a run scored to help set the table for Penn State's offense from the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

"All my teammates had been doing it all day, just punching home runners on base," Dubois said. "It was just kind of another at-bat and I knew that if I didn't get the job done the person behind me would." 

What's Next
Penn State will host Hofstra University at Beard Field for a two-game series this Wednesday. The double-header will kick-off at 5 p.m Wednesday evening.

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