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May 6, 2012
URBANA, Ill. - The Penn State softball team looked for another comeback victory on Sunday at muggy Eichelberger Field, but two seventh-inning errors undermined the rally as Illinois won 3-2. Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) tallied the game's first run while going 1-for-2 at the plate and Alyssa Sovereign (La Canada, Calif.) drove home PSU's only RBI to tie it up in the sixth.
With the game tied at two, Jami Schkade ledoff the bottom of the seventh with a bunt single, but the ball was thrown away into rightfield putting her in scoring position. Catcher Ellen McNair (Niceville, Fla.) made a fantastic diving catch on a popup bunt for the first out. Alex Booker put a single to leftfield, but an error in the outfield allowed Schkade to come around and score uncontested and walk off with a 3-2 win.
The loss spoiled a fantastic performance by Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) who allowed two earned runs on five hits and four walks in 6.1 innings of work. At one point, Akamine retired 11 straight batters from the bottom of the third to the sixth. Akamine struck out five Illini batters during the day, not allowing any earned runs after the first three batters of the game.
The Lions looked to take the early lead as Bell walked and Alicia Walker's (Los Alamitos, Calif.) sacrifice bunt was thrown away, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Illinois starter Pepper Gay induced a popup, groundout and a strikeout to quell the Nittany Lion threat.
For the third straight day, Illinois took a first-inning lead starting with Jessica Davis's triple to right-centerfield to score Alex Booker from first. The Fighting Illini doubled their lead a batter later when Meridith Hackett sent a looping liner just over the glove of shortstop Bell. Akamine settled down to strikeout two Illini and get a liner to short, stranding two runners.
The Nittany Lions countered with a rally of its own in the third. Bell earned a one-out full-count walk, reaching third as Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.) singled to rightfield. During the next at-bat, Johnson broke for second and Bell broke for home as catcher Stephanie Cuevas threw to third. Illini thirdbaseman Jess Perkins had her back turned to the play and the ball went into leftfield, scoring Bell to cut the Illinois lead in half at 2-1. Bell is riding an eight-game hitting streak, her second of the season, hitting successfully in 16 of the last 18 games, while reaching base in 23 of the last 24 games.
Penn State fought back to tie the game in the top of the sixth as Walker scored on a Sovereign two-out single to leftfield. Walker led off with a walk and reached second on a Lauren Yao (Los Angeles, Calif.) sacrifice. Sovereign belted a 2-2 pitch the opposite way as Walker raced home easily beating the throw.
Penn State returns to Happy Valley 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. for a doubleheader. The first game will be televised live on Big Ten Network, while baseball plays at 6 p.m.
On Saturday softball is at 1 p.m. for Senior Day, while baseball continues its three-game series Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (1 p.m.). The ticket stubs can be used any day of either game. All three Penn State softball games will be broadcast live on 1390 AM WRSC in State College with streaming audio on GoPSUsports.com. Sunday's game will be streamed live on BTN.com with video and audio.