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April 29, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State softball team was heroic again on Sunday at Beard Field, beating Minnesota for the third straight time in walk-off fashion as Lauren Yao (Los Angeles, Calif.) clubbed a single to win 4-3. The Nittany Lions trailed 3-0 early, but chipped away at the lead eventually earning the program's first-ever three-game sweep over Minnesota.
Trailing entering the seventh inning for the third straight game, Penn State went on to earn its fourth walk-off victory of the year, sending the 452 fans in attendance into delirium. Penn State was down to its final strike in the last two at-bats as Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.) singled with two outs, pushing Alyssa Renwick (Laurens, S.C.) to second base.
Both runners advanced a bag on a wild pitch during Yao's plate appearance. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Yao laced a screaming single through the legs of Minnesota's third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson to score Renwick easily. Johnson scampered home on the play as the throw from leftfield went wide of home plate and the Nittany Lions mobbed Yao on the diamond.
Penn State's fateful seventh inning began innocuously with a flyout to leftfield before Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) singled into left-centerfield. Bell went 1-for-1 with three walks, one of which was intentional. From there, a fielder's choice forced Bell out and set up the late-game heroics for Johnson and Yao to deliver.
The victory was Penn State's fourth in a row as senior hurler Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) pitched another gem. Aside from a two-out three-run home run to Minnesota's Erika Smyth, Akamine was flawless, going all seven innings with her second consecutive 10-strikeout day. For the weekend, Akamine went 3-0 in 19.1 innings of work while striking out 26 Golden Gophers, improving to 11-16.
Akamine's counterpart, Sara Moulton, went 6.2 innings in the loss while giving up the game-winning run for the second straight day. Moulton (22-13) allowed five hits, three of which came in the seventh inning, with four earned runs, five walks and three strikeouts.
Down 3-0, Penn State got on the board in the third inning as Akamine scored on a wild pitch from Moulton. The Minnesota hurler walked Akamine and Alyssa Sovereign (La Canada, Calif.) singled to put runners on the corners. A walk to Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) and a fielder's choice loaded the bags with no outs. Moulton got two strikeouts and induced a foul out to end the threat.
Penn State was resilient, cutting the lead to 3-2 in the fourth inning when Sovereign stroked a double down the rightfield line to score Shannon Hutchinson (Sewell, N.J.). Hutchinson ran for Liz Presto (Bethlehem, Pa.) who earned a lead-off walk. Sovereign went 2-for-3 with an RBI on the afternoon.
For the weekend, Presto led the Nittany Lions going 4-for-9 after her four-hit Saturday doubleheader. Bell, Johnson and Sovereign all gathered three hits with Bell earning five walks for a .615 on-base percentage. The Nittany Lions hit .291 at the plate, while Akamine held the Gophers to .176 hitting with a 2.90 ERA.
The Nittany Lions have beaten the Golden Gophers four straight times, just the second time in the all-time series that has happened (Apr. 2, 2005-Apr. 18, 2009). Penn State has won four straight at home and improves to 9-2 in games at Beard Field this season.
PSU is off this week for finals before traveling to Champaign-Urbana for a three-game series vs. Illinois. Saturday's doubleheader is set to begin at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Penn State returns home on May 11-12 for the final home series of the year against Ohio State. Nittany Lion softball will be honoring a ticket exchange with Penn State baseball as both teams are home that weekend. All ticket stubs bought at softball can be used for free entry at baseball and visa versa. PSU hosts OSU on Friday at 4 p.m., televised live on Big Ten Network, while baseball plays at 6 p.m. Saturday softball is at 2:00 p.m. for a Senior Day doubleheader, while baseball continues its three-game series Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The ticket stubs can be used any day of either game.