Softball Drops Tough 5-4 Games to No. 1 Michigan
April 20, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Nittany Lion softball team gave a valiant effort against No. 1 Michigan (40-3, 9-1 Big Ten), but dropped a pair of games on Wednesday night at Beard Field. Penn State (23-19, 5-7 Big Ten) saw a slim 3-2 lead fade away in the opener and a seventh-inning cut short by a poor call at first in the nightcap. Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.) led the Nittany Lions with two homers and six runs batted in.
GAME ONE: MICHIGAN 5, PENN STATE 4
Michigan sprinted out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of Penn State miscues in the third inning. Third baseman Lauren Rossi (Yardley, Pa.) dropped a Dorian Shaw foul popup, which would've been the second out in the inning. Shawn laced a pitch to right field scoring a run for a one-run lead. Chidester grounded to short, but a bobbled ball kept the inning alive as Michigan capitalized with a sacrifice fly to centerfield and a two-run margin.
Penn State wasted no time in responding as Rossi atoned for her mistake in the top half of the inning with a single of her own to open the PSU half. Mary Ostman (Northbrook, Ill.) followed up with her own single before two Nittany Lion outs nearly let Michigan ace Jordan Taylor off the hook. Johnson then bombed a 3-2 pitch to right field, catapulting the Nittany Lions into a 3-2 lead.
The Wolverines would answer in the sixth inning with a Bree Evans RBI single to left after a tense battle with Penn State hurler Jackie Hill (San Jose, Calif.), knotting the game at three apiece. Hill nearly got out of the jam, but a grounder to second baseman Lauren Yao (Los Angeles, Calif.) that was misplayed allowed the third unearned run of the game to score for Michigan, giving the Wolverines a 4-3 lead.
Just like Rossi in the third, Yao would make up for the error with another key Nittany Lion hit in the bottom of the sixth. With Alyssa Renwick (Laurens, S.C.) on third, Yao ripped a Taylor offering down the third-base line and the ball sliced off Chidester's glove, allowing Renwick to tie the game once again. Despite the Nittany Lion effort, Chidester's 10th homer of the year would be the difference as Penn State went down in order the following inning to end the upset chance.
Hill dropped to 14-10 with two earned runs against and 10 hits allowed while walking one. The fifth-year senior struck out three and kept the Wolverines at bay with just two extra-base hits by the powerful Michigan offense. Taylor grabbed her 21st victory of the year and gave up three earned with seven hits allowed and eight strikeouts. The win by Michigan was the Wolverines' first over Penn State while holding the No. 1 ranking.
Johnson went 2-for-3 three in the opener and was joined by Yao with two base hits. Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) also chipped in with her 12th double of the season.
GAME TWO: MICHIGAN 5, PENN STATE 4
Penn State remained pesky, responding for the third time in two games to a Michigan inning with runs scored. Bell singled to right and starting pitcher Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) knocked an infield single off her counterpart Stephanie Speierman before an out was recorded. Johnson singled home Bell and Akamine went to second as PSU made it a 3-1 game. Alyssa Sovereign (La Canada, Calif.) notched her first hit of the evening with a single to score pinch-runner Shannon Hutchinson (Sewell, N.J.), but a base running blunder by Sovereign coupled with a ground out ended the Nittany Lion rally.
Michigan would be aided by another Penn State error to kick off the fourth after Akamine retired the previous seven batters as Blanchard reached second base. Amy Knapp doubled home a run before Evans singled home Knapp to extend the lead to 5-2.
Penn State put runners in scoring position in the fourth and sixth innings, but couldn't push any runs across. Pinch-runner Rachel Myers (Millheim, Pa.) and Yao were stranded on third and second, respectively in the fourth with less than two outs. The sixth saw another similar combination as Kasie Hatfield (Tampa, Fla.) reached on a walk before Sovereign doubled to put two runners on scoring position again, forcing Speierman from the game. A popup and two straight strikeouts by Taylor got the Wolverines out of the traffic jam.
In the bottom of the seventh, Mary Ostman (Northbrook, Ill.) opened with a single to center and it looked as though two runners would reach safely, which is when controversy ensued. Bell chopped a grounder to first that was mishandled by Shaw, who threw it to second baseman Ashley Lane as Bell beat the throw. Unfortunately for Penn State, what looked to be a two-runner, no-out situation was not to be as Bell was called out on the play.
Another grounder moved Ostman to third before Johnson took a 0-2 pitch the opposite way eating into the Michigan lead, 5-4. Had Bell been called safe, Penn State would've been assured of at least extra innings, but Hatfield rolled out to first and Penn State's second opportunity at toppling the No. 1 team in the country was foiled. The game was broadcast live by Big Ten Network and multiple replays clearly showed Bell beat the throw.
Akamine went seven strong innings and gave up just the three first-inning earned runs, while striking out three, walking two and allowing eight hits. Johnson went 2-for-4, pushing her total for the doubleheader to 4-for-7 with six RBI. Akamine and Sovereign chipped in with two hits as Penn State out-hit the Wolverines, 10-8, in the second game. Speierman improved to 18-0 on the season with five innings of work, eight hits against and two earned runs with a walk. She struck out eight, while Taylor got her seventh save of the year despite the two-run homer, two hits and two strikeouts in two innings.
The Nittany Lions look to bounce back on Easter Sunday when they host Longwood for the final non-conference series of the year. The doubleheader begins at 1:00 p.m. at Nittany Lion Softball Park and the games can be followed through GameTracker as well as commentary and analysis on Twitter (www.twitter.com/PSULionSoftball).