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April 28, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State softball team showed its resilience on Saturday, fighting back from 3-0 deficits twice on Saturday afternoon at Beard Field, emerging victorious twice in walk-off fashion. The Nittany Lions stared down seventh-inning deficits in both games winning 6-5 and 4-3 (8 inn.). Offensively, Liz Presto was the Penn State star going 4-for-7 in the doubleheader, driving home four runs in game one including a massive three-run double to tie the game in the fourth inning. In the circle, Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) won both decisions, going 12.1 innings with 16 strikeouts and reaching double-digit victories for the third straight year.
The Penn State (16-27, 7-10 Big Ten) bats were alive all day collecting 22 hits putting the pressure on Minnesota's pitching staff to shut down them down. Six Nittany Lions tallied at least two hits as Penn State hit .328. Penn State looks for its second Big Ten sweep of the year on Sunday against Minnesota (28-18, 7-10 Big Ten) at Noon, a game that will be televised live on Big Ten Network.
Down 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh, Penn State rallied to beat Minnesota 6-5. Kasie Hatfield (Tampa, Fla.) led off with a double down the leftfield line, reaching third on a Koch wild pitch. Akamine walked and Presto's single to left tied the game at five all. Kelsey Kimminau came in relief of Koch as speedy Shannon Hutchinson (Sewell, N.J.) singled to the shortstop as Akamine beat the throw to the bag at third, loading the bases. Kimminau got a strikeout for the first out of the inning before Bell's blooper behind second base could not be corralled, scoring Alyssa Renwick (Laurens, S.C.) from third on the fielder's choice, giving Penn State its second walk-off win of the year.
Minnesota struck for a run in the first when Madie Eckerstrom sent a two-out single to second scoring Erica Myer from third. Freshman Marissa Diescher (Livingston Manor, N.Y.) struck out Alex Davis to get out of the jam. Unfortunately for Diescher, she'd walk in two runs with two outs in the top of the third before Akamine came in with a big strikeout and end the Minnesota threat, but Penn State trailed 3-0.
Penn State mounted a furious rally in the bottom of the fourth as two long at-bats keyed the Lion momentum. Akamine singled in the hole between third and shortstop on the 12th pitch from UM starter Sara Moulton to load the bases with one out. Presto came up with the bags full of Lions, using her 12th pitch of the at-bat to cream a double into the right-centerfield gap, clearing the bases and tying the game at three apiece.
Minnesota answered in the fifth with a rally of its own as Bree Blanchette scorched a two-out single to centerfield, scoring two and giving the Gophers a 5-3 lead. Blanchette would eventually be thrown out by Hatfield at second base on the play.
The Lions again went into attack mode as Bell and Alyssa Renwick (Laurens, S.C.) singled to open the bottom half of the fifth. Johnson sent a single to left that loaded the bases and Lauren Yao (Los Angeles, Calif.) singled to centerfield scoring Bell as Renwick held up on the play. Moulton induced a lineout double play before Akamine reached on a single, as Moulton's day came to a close going 4.2 innings with four earned runs and eight hits to her ledger. Reliever Alissa Koch got a swinging strikeout to quell the Lion threat.
Akamine pitched the final 4.1 innings for Penn State, allowing five hits, two runs and one walk, while striking out six Gophers. Koch took the loss for Minnesota, dropping to 6-6 on the year. The Lions pounded out 12 hits in the first game as Hatfield went 2-for-3 with a run, Akamine went 2-for-3 with two runs and Hutchinson went 2-for-3. Eckstrom had the best day at the plate going 3-for-3 with two runs, an RBI and a walk.
As if the opener wasn't exciting enough, Penn State found away to make the nightcap even better. Penn State again trailed entering the seventh, but a three-run rally highlighted by Bell's two-run single to rightfield, and Sovereign's eighth-inning single to left-centerfield gave the Blue and White a resounding doubleheader sweep, 4-3. Presto again tallied two hits as did Danee Collett (Rogersville, Tenn.) to pace PSU. Akamine had another solid outing, winning her third straight decision in the process, going all eight innings with five hits, three earned runs and three walks allowed, while striking out 10 batters.
Behind 3-0 and down to its final three outs, Penn State was undeterred. Bell's single to right made the game 3-2 as it scored Hutchinson and Collett. Collett walked with one out, while Morgan Long (Oro Valley, Ariz.) gathered a pinch-hit single for Hutchinson to start the rally. Renwick followed with a walk before Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.) lofted a dying single down the rightfield line past the outstretched arm of UM's Erika Smyth to score Bell and knot the game at three.
Presto continued the Nittany Lion offense with one out in the bottom of the eighth with a single to left field. Collett followed with a single that just got under the glove of Smyth, advancing Presto to third. With two outs, Sovereign strode to the plate going hitless in the day in the previous six at-bats. Seven was the lucky digit as she stroked a gorgeous hit into the left-centerfield gap to score Presto and win the game.
Minnesota opened the scoring in the third when Tyler Walker tallied her eighth homer of the year. The Gophers made it 3-0 when catcher Kari Dorle drove home a pair of two-out runs with the bases loaded.
Moulton took the loss for Minnesota, falling to 22-12, going 7.2 innings with eight hits, four runs and four walks allowed, while striking out six Nittany Lions. Moulton came into the game with the Big Ten's best ERA at 1.26, but Penn State tagged her for eight earned runs in 12.1 innings for a 4.54 ERA on Saturday.
The Nittany Lions and Golden Gophers conclude their three-game series at Beard Field with a Big Ten Network live broadcast at Noon. The game will also be carried live on 1390 AM WRSC in State College with the live audio streaming on GoPSUsports.com