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Bullpen Bounces Back with Complete Game Effort

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Normally, when a team's starting pitcher can't make it out of the first inning, it spells big trouble.

 

Teams rely on their starters to carry the game as long as they can to keep stress off the bullpen, but sometimes it isn't your day. That was the case Sunday afternoon for Penn State starter Taylor Lehman against Northwestern.

 

Lehman made it to at least the fourth inning in all of his eight previous starts this season, but he didn't have his best stuff Sunday. The senior lasted four hitters in the first inning before getting pulled with the bases loaded and no outs. He gave up a run on two hits and two walks.

 

A troubling scenario for a bullpen pitcher - entering a game with the bases loaded and no outs, is seldom worked out of without any damage incurred. While Penn State seemed to be in a heap of trouble early, the  game could've gotten out of hand quickly.

 

Freshman Bailey Dees wasn't going to let that happen.

 

Dees expertly maneuvered his way out of the inning without allowing another run. He got some help from shortstop Tommy Gibson, who snared a line drive and turned an unassisted double play by himself to get the Nittany Lions out of trouble.

 

"He threw strikes and got outs and was able to limit the damage to one," head coach Rob Cooper said. "You can't worry about the guys that are on [base], you got to take care of each pitch and he did a good job."

 

Dees said he barely got any time to warm up before entering the game but was ready to go when he got the call.

 

"You just got to attack guys, go right after these Northwestern guys and make them swing the bat," Dees said. "You can't defend walks, so if we go out there, get ahead with first-pitch strikes and go right at guys, it gives us a much better chance to get hitters out."

 

Penn State was able to tie the game in the second inning with a sacrifice fly courtesy of Shea Sbranti. What could've been another disaster for the Blue and White flipped around and they seemed to be in the driver's seat.

 

Dees continued to pitch 2.1 innings and surrendered just two runs in the game. They were the only two earned runs he's allowed in his last four appearances.

 

Penn State was still at a disadvantage having to go to its bullpen so early in the game, but three more relievers took the mound and kept the Nittany Lions within striking distance all game.

 

Senior Jake Pilewicz replaced Dees in the third inning and pitched two solid innings of his own. He allowed just one earned run on two hits.

 

Penn State tallied another run in the third to make it a one-run game via a Braxton Giavedoni sacrifice fly that scored Connor Klemann. At that point in the game, the Nittany Lions had yet to record a hit in the game but still pushed across two runs.

 

Kyle Virbitsky and Marko Boricich finished the final four innings in impressive fashion, limiting Northwestern to one hit and no runs. Boricich pitched two perfect innings to end the game and tallied three strikeouts, but the offense was unable to come alive and Penn State fell 6-3.

 

After the bullpen surrendered two late leads to the Wildcats in the first two games of the series, Cooper and Virbitsky said it's encouraging to see the bullpen perform well from the first pitch to the last.

 

"Just as a staff lately, especially yesterday you can point some fingers toward the staff for what happened, but being able to come out today and at least keep it under control was huge," Virbitsky said.

By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Tori Dubois came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning 0-4 on the day, but launched her team-high ninth home run of the season over the left field wall to give the Nittany Lions a 4-3 victory over Illinois on Sunday.  Read More

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By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Tori Dubois came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning 0-4 on the day, but launched her team-high ninth home run of the season over the left field wall to give the Nittany Lions a 4-3 victory over Illinois on Sunday. 

Player of the Game- Tori Dubois

The Nittany Lions fell behind early but were able to manufacture three runs to stay in the game. Following a run by Penn State in the bottom of the fourth inning, both teams pitching staffs were outstanding, not allowing a run until Dubois' shot in the ninth.

"I've had probably five or six at-bats off her the whole series so I was just waiting for my pitch," Dubois said. "I was all over the place at the beginning of the day so I just relaxed and looked for what I knew I could hit hard and I got it." 

For a team that has to fight through adversity all season, everything finally came together for a big win in the final home game at Beard Field in the 2018 season.

"What an exciting day. I'm so excited for our seniors and our kids for grinding away and playing hard to the end especially in front of all of our fans again," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "I can't say enough about really the entire for never giving up. Shaffer started us off great and Jess came in and really shut it down then Tori. She didn't have a weekend that she's used to having and she could've gone mental during that situation, but that just shows that poise and mental toughness of her to come through when we needed her."

Pitching Out of Jams

Penn State's pitching was in the zone all day once Illinois had runners reach base, putting out multiple fires. Madison Shaffer walked seven batters in her four innings in the circle and Jessica Cummings walked two. However, between the two pitchers they stranded 15 Illinois runners over nine innings.

"It's not ideal, we would like to limit those walks, but they just really kept their composure and kept attacking," Lehotak said. "I felt like yesterday we were more emotional and frustrated, today they were just like, you know what we're just going to go for it, and that's what they did."

The pitchers' execution was huge with runners on finally making the big pitch when it mattered.

"We work on pressure situations all the time, we do it with base runners and we do it in the bullpen where you have to make a pitch," Cummings added.  "We struggled all season making the big pitch so it just came together today where it just came together when we needed it." 

Senior Day Success

Every program wants to get a big win on their senior day, and it was a dream come true for the Nittany Lions, delivering a big win for their seniors.

"They are the ones who have changed our program," Lehotak said. "You won't see it on the stat sheet but they've changed our program, and behind the scenes in the dugout, in the locker room they are the ones who have really started us on the right path cultural wise and so know from here on out we can actually kind of go forward."

Dubois, a junior, was thinking of her teammates when she hit the game-winning home run, noting their outstanding performances throughout their careers.

"Jess and Gianna are my best friends so to be able to do that for them was great," Dubois said. "Jess put out an amazing performance coming in and Gianna's been stellar all year so to be able to that for them was just amazing for everybody." 

For Cummings, it was a one of her best pitched games all season, and Senior Day only adds to the moment.

"It's the goal every day to do that well, it makes it more special as a memory just to remember today. Really the win is obviously fantastic but just the memories of getting to play and fight with all the 18 other people I've gotten to play and fight with all season. It's just nice to finally get the win I think we've deserved for a long time."

Penn State's final Big Ten series of the year will come next weekend when they travel to Minnesota.

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.  Read More

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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.

 Player of the Day - Paige Johnson

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. 

What's Next? 

Penn State will conclude its series with Illinois Sunday afternoon at noon in the regular season home finale.

Duo Stays Hot in Close Loss

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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. Read More

Duo Stays Hot in Close Loss

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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.

Lions Fall Short in Regular Season Finale

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

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. Read More

Lions Fall Short in Regular Season Finale

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

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. Read More

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