By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the 25th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in town for a doubleheader on Wednesday, it served as a good test for the Nittany Lions in front of their home fans as Big Ten play moves through the season.
Senior pitcher Marlaina Laubach did not disappoint in front of the home supporters. Laubach spun a gem in game one, hurling her seventh complete game of the year and stymying the Buckeyes offense, leading to her eighth win of the campaign and a 2-1 Penn State victory. Laubach added in four strikeouts, to give her 55 strikeouts in 90.1 innings pitched this season, and she has gone the distance in every win she's tallied except one. Despite her stellar performance in the circle all year, her head coach believed this was one of her finest outings.
"[Ohio State} doesn't strike out much, so for her to get some strikeouts looking, that's pretty impressive. It was probably one of the best games I've seen Marly throw in a long time," said coach Amanda Lehotak.
Even more impressive was the offense plating runs against a pitcher who no-hit them just one season ago. The Blue & White got to the Buckeye ace Shelby Hursh in the fourth inning, as a Destiny Weber blast scraped off the top of the left field wall, missing a home run by inches but bringing home two runs. Laubach did the rest, allowing only one earned run that didn't come until the top of the seventh inning. Even in innings where Penn State didn't score, the team hit several hard lines drives to the outfield that ended up being caught, but they were right on top of Hursh all evening.
The defense did its part as well. With the sun glaring in the outfield, Rebecca Ziegler shielded her eyes with her glove and made two superb grabs in centerfield, helping to slow down a potential Ohio State offensive rally.
Second baseman Gianna Arrizurieta served as the spark plug for the offense, leading off two separate innings with a single and a walk, respectively, to give her squad a chance for a big inning.
In game two, Penn State showed resiliency after going down early 9-2. The team never gave up, rallying to cut the deficit to 10-7, the eventual final score. Madison Shaffer pitched well in relief, going four innings and only giving up one earned run, giving the bats a chance to mount a comeback. Even though a frenetic comeback came up just short, the team showed heart, something that Lehotak stressed has been happening all season, both at home and on the road.
"We're finally showing people who we are...to see them do that, it's kind of what they've done all year. We're finally starting to find some holes [at bat], so I'm really proud of our offense."
"We had a couple of situations where we had the bases loaded," she added. "We're right there, so sometimes, we just need to make one more play on defense or offense to bust through."
Splitting a doubleheader against a top-25 team is a nice way to begin a week that should prove to be an emotional one for the Lions. On Friday, Lehotak leads her team against Nebraska on the road, a trip back to her home state. The head coach has never played a game in Lincoln since she has been with Penn State.
With a possibility to get a few more Big Ten conference wins this week, things are looking up for a softball team that has been fighting and scrapping all season long. The first game of a three game set is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET. Friday's contest will begin at 4 p.m. ET, while the rubber game begins at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. Penn State's next home game will be next week; a nonconference doubleheader against the Bucknell Bison at Beard Field.