By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -1,411 fans filed into their seats Saturday at Beard Field as Penn State took on in-conference Illinois for the conclusion of Friday's rain delayed game and Saturday's scheduled contest. This marks the second time the Nittany Lions broke its attendance record this season, passing the previous high of 1,410 that was set on April 7th when Michigan came to Happy Valley.
"I'd just like to thank all the fans that came out and really represented for our seniors this weekend because they deserve it," head coach Amanda Lehotak said postgame.
Following inclement weather that suspended Friday night's game after just a half inning of play, the Blue and White and Fighting Illini concluded the first game of their series Saturday afternoon and played game two shortly after.
Here are some takeaways from Saturday's action-packed day of softball.
Junior third baseman Paige Johnson was on a fire at the dish in the first two games of the Nittany Lions last home series of the year. In game one she hit a two-out, three-run homerun to left-center field to give Penn State an early 3-0 lead. She then added a two-run homerun to right center field in game two, as she led Penn State offensively.
"It was just about see ball-hit ball," Johnson commented. "I just tried to get back to the simplicity of my swing and be myself again."
"There's honestly no words to describe it," Johnson said about finally hitting her stride at the plate. "I'm so happy to be able to contribute the way I want to contribute to our offense. It's just been a blast the last couple of days."
Johnson hit her fifth and sixth homeruns of the season and pushed her RBI total to 21 on the season, which ranks second on the team.
"It was great to see Paige Johnson get back to her offensive self," Lehotak said about the bio behavioral health major who broke out of her slump in a big way.
"Paige has had really bad luck, where she's hit it right at the (defense)," Lehtok added. "So for Paige, her hard work is finally paying off. She's been frustrated for a while, so it's a relief that it's finally come together."
Johnson will look to continue her hot streak, both offensively and defensively at third base, and add to her new career high mark in homeruns.
Gianna's Big Moment
Shortstop Gianna Arrizurieta, one of the program's three seniors playing in their second to last game at Beard Field, came through in a big spot for the Blue and White Saturday. With Penn State trailing by five and Arrizurieta coming up with the bases loaded and two outs, she hit a line drive down the right field line to score two, cutting down the Illinois lead during game two.
Arrizurieta, with both her good play on the field and good leadership in the locker room, will most certainly be missed by the rest of the Nittany Lions.
"Getting to know the three seniors this year, they're amazing people and I wish the absolute best for them in whatever they choose to do with the rest of their lives," Johnson said about Arrizurieta and the two other senior teammates.
Penn State will conclude its series with Illinois Sunday afternoon at noon in the regular season home finale.
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State freshman Parker Hendershot and junior Conlin Hughes went through each of their own cold streaks at one point during the 2018 season, but both are seemingly finding a groove offensively as the Big Ten schedule winds down.
Still, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper stuck with the duo in the lineup despite their recent slumps and in return, they've rewarded him with blistering play at the dish.
Hendershot has been the hottest Nittany Lion in Penn State's lineup over the last two weeks. Since a nine-game slide, Hendershot burst immediately into an eight-game hitting streak that he extended Saturday afternoon against Northwestern.
Over the course of his hitting streak, Hendershot is hitting .533 (16-30) with 13 RBIs and four runs scored. He has three multi-hit games during the streak.
"He competes. He doesn't let one pitch faze him," Cooper said. "He's been tough to strike out lately and he uses the whole field."
Hendershot extended his hitting streak to eight games Saturday going 2-for-4 at the plate against Northwestern. He added two RBIs and worked a walk in the game as well.
In the third inning Hendershot cranked a double off the wall in left centerfield and then added an RBI single in the fifth inning to put Penn State up 4-0.
Hendershot has used his recent hot streak to vault his batting average to .353 on the season, a .142 increase from before his hit streak began. He now owns the highest batting average on the team.
Similarly to Hendershot, Hughes recently broke out of his nine-game skid with a season-high three hits against Lafayette this past week. He added an RBI and two runs scored in the game.
Hughes extended his own hitting streak to three games Saturday with another multi-hit game. He went 2-for-4 in the game with an RBI and a team-high three runs scored. Hughes had only one multi-hit game all season before this week, but has recorded two multi-hit games in the past three games.
Hughes could've had another hit and RBI in the seventh inning, Northwestern's first baseman made a diving snare to rob Hughes of an RBI single.
Hughes is 6-for-12 over his three-game hit streak, coming off a 2017 season in which he batted .255 and was second on the team with 50 hits.
Cooper said he sees Hughes getting back to that hitter he showed he could be last year.
"He's definitely been better and it's good to see because he's a guy who's done good things in his career here," Cooper said. "We could really use his veteran play and he's a good defender."
This season, Hughes hasn't seen his batting average hit the .200 mark yet, but his current .183 average is his highest of the season.
Penn State dropped a heartbreaker 8-7 Saturday, but Hendershot and Hughes continue to pressure opposing pitchers as the home stretch of the season approaches.
Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's lacrosse dropped a hard fought overtime decision to Michigan Saturday afternoon to end the regular season. The Wolverines scored the game winning goal 58 seconds into the overtime period, winning 10-9.
Postgame, coach Jeff Tambroni felt the team never settled into a steady rhythm, unable recover from a slow start in the first half. Instead, it was the Wolverines who took advantage from the first whistle.
"Every time we started to build momentum we were our own worst critics," Tambroni said. "We were the ones stopping the momentum. We just did so many things today that created an imbalance of flow and just couldn't get out of it."
The Nittany Lions ended the challenging first half trailing 5-3, but were able to turn things around to start the second half. Penn State managed to keep the Wolverines scoreless in third quarter, finding the back of the net four times to move ahead, 7-3.
The defense struggled in the first half, allowing multiple turnovers and failing to get the ball to the offensive end. In the third quarter, the offense took advantage of more opportunities with the ball.
"In the beginning of the game we had a really hard time clearing the ball," junior redshirt defenseman Mike Aronow said. "I thought we came out in the second half and had more of an urgency getting out of our defensive end."
While the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines kept the score close in the fourth quarter, it was sophomore Mac O'Keefe who found the back of the net with just 40 seconds left in the game to put Penn State up 9-8. The celebration was short-lived when Michigan sophomore Decker Curran scored no more than 20 seconds later to tie up the game and send it into overtime.
As the Nittany Lions have found themselves in overtime situations before throughout the season, Tambroni put his faith in his team and its ability to execute.
It was Curran again who found the back of the net to end the game.
"We wanted to go man-to-man, we believe in our people and I thought our guys did a really good job of that," Tambroni said. "They just made a play, unfortunately it was just a poor result for us."
Although the Nittany Lions didn't get the result they wanted to finish the regular season, Tambroni found comfort in the way his team battled through adversity in the first half to come back strong in the second half.
Despite the final score, the coaching staff was proud of the determination.
"I thought we fought back after playing so miserably in the first [half]," Tambroni said. "There's a lot of great kids on that sideline and the seniors have done so much for our team. I'm sorry for them because it was a culture changing year for us but it just didn't live through the success of the last couple games of the season."
The Nittany Lions will now wait to find out their postseason fate, which is determined based on the winner of the Ohio State, Rutgers game Saturday evening.
"I've seen a lot of good lacrosse out of this group so I know it's there even though it hasn't shown in the last couple games," Tambroni said. "With good leadership and a little luck, we'll live another day."
By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Senior Day for an athletic program is often all about the seniors playing their final time on their home field, and while that was on the mind of many Nittany Lions and their fans on Saturday prior to their matchup against the Michigan Wolverines, the takeaway postgame is about regrouping for the stretch run following a 12-11 last-second loss to end the regular season.
For Penn State head coach Missy Doherty, the team needs to take the loss and regroup before postseason play next week in the Big Ten Tournament.
"We need to be better. We're going into the Big Ten tournament and we're not going to do well if we played like we played today," Doherty said.
"We need to stay composed for a whole 60 minutes and we didn't today," junior Madison Carter added. "That's definitely a lesson we need to take moving forward. You never know what play is going to win the game and it goes down to the final seconds."
While the result didn't go the Nittany Lions' way, it wasn't all negatives for the home team to end the regular season.
Six Nittany Lions scored goals in the first half to help jump the Lions out to a 6-0 lead in the first 14 minutes of action, and seven Nittany Lions put the ball in the back of the net on the afternoon, led by two goals each from Maria Auth, Kayla Brisolari, Quinn Nicolai, and Kristin Roberto.
The six early goal scorers included two seniors on their special day, Katie O'Donnell and Maddie Gallagher, and although the lead didn't hold, the fast start was something the team can remember.
"I hope so," head coach Missy Doherty said on if the team can take positives from the balanced scoring and strong start. "We're still growing and learning but at this point in the season we really just have to be able to execute."
"When we move the ball and we're on all the same page great things happen," Carter, who scored once today, said. "We kind of fell off that in the second half a little bit but we just have to finish our shots and that makes a big difference."
The defense was another positive the team is looking to take postgame.
"Our defense did a great job coming up with some really good stops. The [Michigan shot] clock ran out a couple times, the defense was playing tough," Doherty added.
Penn State needed that defense as despite the fast start, as Michigan made a late first half run. The Wolverines got on the board with back-to-back goals to end the first half and made it three then four straight goals to start the second half, pulling to a 6-4 deficit early in the final half.
Though sophomore Kristin Roberto was finally able to end the Michigan run, putting her second goal of the game in the back of the net with 22:44 to go in the game to push the lead to 7-4, the Wolverines didn't back down, scoring again less than two minutes later to make it a two-goal game once again.
The two teams would go back-and-forth in the final 20 minutes of playing, as Michigan finally tied it at 9-9 with 5:39 to go. Penn State was able to take leads of 10-9 and 11-10 in the final minutes before the final result went the other way.
With the regular season over and postseason play upon them, the Nittany Lions are looking forward.
"We have a big week ahead of us going into Big Tens," Carter said. "People are a little bit disappointed right now, sleep on it and tomorrow we got a lot of work to do."
"We have to rebound," Doherty added. "The Big Ten Tournament gives us a second chance."
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com, student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Justin Hagenman has been the workhorse Penn State has relied on countless times over the last three years. The junior has led the team in innings pitched all three of his seasons, throwing 82 innings in 2016, 80 1/3 innings last season and 53 2/3 this year entering Friday night's game.
Hagenman continued that trend against Northwestern Friday evening when he cruised through eight innings allowing just two earned runs before a thunderstorm postponed the final 1 2/3 innings of the game Saturday.
"The thing about Justin Hagenman is he's a competitor. Always has been," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "Tonight we got exactly what I thought we would from Hag[enman] and if we play just a little bit better defense and help him out, I think the game is over and the final score is probably 6-1 and I'm at home right now."
Not only did the Penn State ace give his bullpen a night off with his eight strong innings on the mound, the right hander also recorded eight strikeouts, which is the second most of the season behind his nine-strikeout night against Purdue March 30th.
"[He had] command, was pounding the strike zone, able to go in, keeping the ball down and being able to repeat his off-speed stuff for strikes," Cooper said of what was working for Hagenman against the Wildcats.
Despite leading the team in both innings pitched and strikeouts through the first 34 games of the season, Hagenman (2-5) has struggled to maintain a decent record. But, this is not something new to the junior starter.
The right hander has struggled to get run support from his team the last two seasons on the mound. In 2017, Hagenman went 1-11 receiving just two or less runs of support in eight of his 14 starts and three or less in 11 of 14 starts.
Unfortunately, the pattern has continued into the 2018 season. Despite allowing three or less runs in seven of his 10 starts, Hagenman has only picked up two wins so far this year. If the Nittany Lions hang on to the 6-4 lead and secure the win in game one Saturday, the right hander will pick up his third win of the season.
Although a lot of players would mentally struggle without the constant run support of their offense, Cooper said that Hagenman has never once battled that issue.
"It's mental toughness, it really is," Cooper said. "It's why he's good. It's why he's going to get a chance to play professional baseball. That's an example of a guy that could get upset and be like, 'Hey I rolled a ground ball we should've gotten out of this inning.' If a guy is not mentally tough, if he doesn't worry about just what he has to do and stay in the present, they can probably let that get to him. And he didn't do that."
The Nittany Lions sit in a good position leading the Wildcats 6-4 with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning that will be finished at 1 p.m. Saturday. Although Penn State is just five outs away from its first conference win since March 25 against Rutgers, Cooper and his team are not taking any lead for granted.
"Obviously this isn't over," Cooper said. "We still got some work to do tomorrow. Obviously if you give me an opportunity to have a two run lead with three outs to go on defense, then I think we'll take it. We'll come tomorrow and go through our regular pregame routine and get ready to go and try to finish this one off. We will worry about game two when it happens."
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