Four-Run Fourth Fires Nittany Lions Past Illini, 4-2
April 2, 2011
URBANA, Ill. - The Nittany Lion softball team used a four-run fourth inning to erase a two-run deficit and defeat Illinois, 4-2, on Saturday afternoon at Eichelberger Field. Jackie Hill (San Jose, Calif.) allowed no earned runs in the complete-game performance that put her atop the PSU record book for career wins. Kailyn Johnson's (Yorba Linda, Calif.) two-run homer capped a four-run rally to guide Penn State to victory.
The game got off to an inauspicious start when Illinois (15-13, 2-1 Big Ten) scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning. Danielle Zymkowitz reached on an error to short before eventually getting to third on a stolen base and a single by Danielle Vaji. Following consecutive strikeouts of Illini sluggers, it looked like Hill would get out of the jam when she induced a popup behind first base that wasn't corralled, allowing both Illini base runners to score. Hill ended up striking out the side to open the game.
For Penn State (17-12, 3-0 Big Ten) in the third inning, errors would undo the opposing side as starter Pepper Gay looked to navigate her way out of the inning when Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) sent a hard grounder to first that was misplayed. Zymkowitz picked the ball up and threw home to get Lauren Rossi (Yardley, Pa.) out, but she had held up and when the ball was overthrown, Rossi scored to cut the lead in half. On the play, Bell made it to third setting up an RBI situation for Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) who drove Bell home with a single to left. Next up, Johnson cranked her second homer of the year down the rightfield line to double up the Illini at 4-2.
Meanwhile, Hill was throwing zeroes on the board the rest of the way as she kept the Illini at bay. Following her three-strikeout first inning, she added three in the next four innings and two in the sixth. In the seventh, Illinois' Audrey Gallien led off with a double to right before Hill induced a foul fly and threw her ninth strikeout of the day for two outs. Hill walked Zymkowitz to get to Vaji, There, Hill got Vaji swinging at strike three to end the ball game and secure Penn State's first victory over Illinois in six tries since a 13-1, Apr. 5, 2008 win at Nittany Lion Field. The Nittany Lions last beat Illinois at Eichelberger on Apr. 25, 2004 in a 2-0 victory.
Hill's 10-strikeout performance was her second-straight double-digit showing in a row following a 12-K showing at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The redshirt-senior pitcher shut down the Illini, scattering five hits, while working around two PSU errors and two walks, to earn her 11th win of the season. Hill is now 54-40 all-time in her career for the Blue and White, passing Missy Beseres (2002-06) who had 53 wins during her time in Happy Valley. Additionally, Hill's 10 strikeouts pushed her past Ashley Esparza (593, 2004-08) for second in career strikeouts at PSU as Hill now has 597 strikeouts in a Penn State uniform.
Penn State moved to 3-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2000 season when PSU started 5-0. Additionally, the Nittany Lions are five games over .500 for the first time in 2011, while notching their fifth win over a Top 50 RPI team. Penn State also tallied its third come-from-behind victory in its last four wins.
Penn State returns to the diamond tomorrow for a Noon ET start at Eichelberger Field. The matchup will have live stats coverage through GameTracker as well as commentary and analysis on Twitter (www.twitter.com/PSULionSoftball).