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May 21, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State softball played 23 innings on Saturday night at Beard Field, resulting in two victories and a spot in the NCAA Regional Final for the first time since 2006. The Nittany Lions downed Fordham with three 16th-inning runs to win 5-2 in the nightcap following a 6-1 triumph over Albany to stave off elimination in front of a Nittany Lion Softball Park record crowd of 751.
Jackie Hill (San Jose ,Calif.) went 18.2 innings with a 2-0 record, one earned run, one walk, seven hits allowed and 12 strikeouts to keep Penn State's season alive. Alyssa Sovereign (La Canada, Calif.) added two crucial two-run home runs to pace the Nittany Lions (31-23-1). Penn State moves on to face No. 13 seed Oregon at Noon at Beard Field. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network as PSU needs two victories to advance to the Super Regional.
[Jackie Hill] is probably the toughest competitor I've ever coached in my 20-something odd years of coaching," head coach Robin Petrini said. "Hats off to her tonight."
PENN STATE 6, ALBANY 1
Sovereign's two-run bomb in the fourth-inning broke a scoreless tie as Penn State went on to eliminate Albany, 6-1 on Saturday afternoon. Kasie Hatfield (Tampa, Fla.) walked on a 3-1 count before Sovereign lifted an 0-1 offering over the rightfield wall to give PSU's first NCAA runs since a 9-2 win over Hofstra in 2006. The homer was Sovereign's fourth of the season.
After Albany cut the lead in half during the bottom of the sixth thanks to an Andrianna Walraven homer, PSU's bats came alive in the seventh to put the game away. Sovereign walked, giving way to pinch-runner Shannon Hutchinson (Sewell, N.J.) before pinch-hitter Danee Collett (Rogersville, Tenn.) reached safely on an error, while trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Lauren Rossi (Yardley, Pa.) sent an RBI single to right to score Hutchinson. Morgan Long (Oro Valley, Ariz.) added a one-out single to score another run, pushing the lead to 4-1. Bell's 14th double of the season to score Mary Ostman (Northbrook, Ill.) and Hill for the final 6-1 margin.
PennState out-hit the Great Danes (28-23), 6-4, leaving just four on base, while Albany left three stranded. Great Dane ace Brittany MacFawn went 6.1 innings with five hits allowed and six earned runs on the day.
PENN STATE 5, FORDHAM 2 (16 innings)
When Penn State trotted out for game two of the day, little did the Nittany Lions know they were in store for the second-longest game in PSU history.
With the game tied 2-2 after two innings, Fordham (42-19) ace and 2010 All-American Jen Mineau came in to throw 12.2 scoreless innings. Matching her along the way was Penn State's Hill, who went 11.2 scoreless, her second-longest effort in her career. Unfortunately for Mineau, she was the first to crack as Penn State tagged her for three runs in the 16th inning.
Penn State was hitting the ball hard all night, but seemingly right at Fordham's fielders or only to the warning track as various Rams made terrific defensive plays. PSU's scoring rally began when Ostman singled down the leftfield line and Bell walked following a wild pitch by Mineau to open the 16th. Akamine laced a 2-0 pitch to deep left-centerfield to score both base runners and give Penn State its first lead of the game and score the first runs in 13.5 innings, sending the frenzied Penn State faithful into delirium. Hutchinson replaced Akamine at second as Johnson singled her home and open up a three-run lead, which Hill wouldn't relinquish.
Fordham got on the board quickly in the second with a two-run Beckah Wiggins triple to rightfield off Akamine. The triple was Wiggins' second straight hit against Penn State after her game-winning two-run homer in the seventh of Friday's matchup. From there on out, Wiggins would tally only another hit, while Fordham was held scoreless for fifteen straight innings. Akamine ultimately went 4.1 innings with five hits allowed, two runs against and a walk, while striking out three Rams.
Penn State responded in fine fashion as Hatfield led off with a single to left and Sovereign knocked the first offering over the rightfield wall to tie things up. Sovereign had 10 plate appearances on Saturday with two homers, four RBI and a walk.
PSU saw Bell get into scoring position with her 15th double of the year in the third inning, but she would be stranded as Fordham starter Chelsea Plimpton (2.1 innings pitched, three hits, two earned, two strikeouts) was lifted in favor of Mineau. She cleaned up with two of her first 15 strikeouts of the night.
Hill worked out of a major jam in the fifth after Akamine walked Jessica Crowley and gave up a single to Lindsey Kay Bright. Hill used a fielder's choice for the second out before getting a grounder to quell the Ram opportunity. PSU had a prime opportunity of its own in the eighth as consecutive errors committed by Fordham's Samantha Pellechio put two on with no outs. Mineau navigated her way through the frame with a hard flyout to left by Akamine and warning-track flyout by Johnson to end the PSU half.
Fordham left two stranded of its own in the bottom of the eighth in a less-than-two-out situation. Hill went on to retire 13 in a row until a two-out single in the 12th broke up the streak. During that span, PSU left two on in the 11th after two-out singles by Johnson and Hatfield, who went 3-for-7 against Fordham.
Hill managed to retire the final 13 Fordham batters in succession, downing 26 of the final 27 Rams in a performance that might go down as one of the finest in PSU softball history.
Saturday represented many things for the Nittany Lion program as the victories were the first in an NCAA Tournament at Penn State in program history. Moreover, it was the first victory for the Lions since 2006 in NCAA play, where PSU also lost its opener before winning two straight to make the Regional Final.
Hill became PSU's all-time leader in single-season innings pitched, with the record standing at 229.2, breaking Kelly McCann's 2001 mark of 218. Hill also moved to 63 career victories, furthering her Penn State record. Hill improved to 20-13 as the 20 wins mark the second most in single-season history. The 11.2 innings pitched is the fourth-most in school history for a single game, just a third inning short of her 12-inning performance last year at Indiana, a 3-2 win.
Bell moved into a tie for second place for doubles in a season with 15, matching Megan Humphrey in 2001. She is currently three doubles shy of the record 18 doubles held by Danielle Kinley (2007) and Jen Acunto (2005). The game also marked the longest game for a home contest in PSU history as it was the longest game since a 1-0, 14-inning loss to Northwestern on Apr. 25, 2008. The 16-inning marathon is one short of the 17-inning journey, which PSU lost 8-7, at Wisconsin on Apr. 27, 1997 in Petrini's first year.
Penn State's game against Oregon will begin at Noon on Sunday with a broadcast on Big Ten Network. The Nittany Lions need two victories to advance to its first Super Regional appearance, while Oregon is in search of its second straight appearance.