By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State offense was in need of a spark to get things rolling in the second game of a doubleheader against Robert Morris Wednesday evening.
The Nittany Lions had already dropped the first game against the Colonials 3-1, a game that saw them only amass three hits.
Enter Alyssa VanDerveer, who in the third inning hit a two-run homerun to provide that spark and jumpstart a six-run inning for the Lions. Penn State (11-14) went on to win the game 8-5.
The homerun was VanDerveer's team leading fifth of the season, and eighteenth of her career. It was overdue for the sophomore catcher, who before that had gone 0-for-3 over the span of the two games, including one strikeout and an RBI fly out.
"Sometimes in hitting you can be off a little bit, and in game one you could just tell she looked off," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "So for her to come back and calm down and get that hit I was happy with her. She just kept battling and she competed the entire day; I was really proud of her [today]."
The inning started with what Lehotak calls a "cheat base hit": junior Shelby Miller hit a pop up right behind the pitcher, and a miscommunication between the second basemen and shortstop let the ball drop.
"Really I think that was just the momentum switch for us just to pour it on," Lehotak said. "They kind of got back on their heels at that moment and sometimes in the game we just need something to go your way, and that went our way."
With Miller on base, VanDerveer headed to the plate. She only needed to see three pitches before she found the one she liked and sent it to centerfield, where the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced over.
From there, Penn State had RBIs from Rebecca Ziegler, Macy Jones and Mollie Sorenson to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 7-2 lead going into the fourth inning. The Nittany Lions finished the game with ten hits from seven different players.
Jones has been one of the most productive players for the Nittany Lions this season; her 31 hits on the year rank number two on the team, just behind Miller's 33.
"She has been one of our most consistent players all year," Lehotak said. "To me, it's the mentality that she brings to the plate. I think it's that senior mentality of 'I've been there, done that'. Even if she has a bad at-bat she comes back stronger."
The offense struggled throughout the first game of the evening, but it wasn't for lack of effort. Nearly every player connected with a pitch, but their hits were going straight to the fielders who were able to turn the easy out.
"In the first game, we only had three strikeouts. We had some really good hits, just right at people and sometimes the game just goes that way," Lehotak said. "Eight inches to the left or right it could be a tie ball game, but I tip my hat to them, they definitely beat us game one."
The Nittany Lions start conference play this weekend when they travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers in a three game series starting Friday. Lehotak is ready for the challenges that the Scarlet Knights and the rest of the Big Ten will bring for the team in the remainder of the season.
"I like where we're at heading into conference [play]. The Big Ten Conference is brutal and some crazy things can happen in conference," Lehotak said. "It's a three game series on the road, which is always tough. But I think we're getting better, and I keep telling the kids that at some point, the way they're playing the game is going to pay off for us, so hopefully it'll pay off heading into this weekend against Rutgers."