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May 22, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State softball put up a valiant effort for the fourth time in three days at the University Park Regional, but 12th-ranked and 13th-seeded Oregon prevailed, 3-1, on Sunday afternoon at Beard Field. The Nittany Lions received an RBI single and a solid pitching performance by Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) to gain a 1-0 lead before two errors led to three runs by the Ducks.
Penn State (31-24-1) showed no ill effects of playing 23 innings of softball just hours earlier as Akamine kept the Oregon (42-14) offense off kilter through five innings. At the plate, Akamine provided PSU a crucial hit when her seeing-eye single made it through the right side to score Mary Ostman (Northbrook, Ill.) from second base with one out. The inning was set up by Lauren Rossi's (Yardley, Pa.) leadoff walk and an Ostman fielder's choice.
Akamine rolled through the Duck lineup until the sixth when with one away, Kaylan Howard's chopper to third was bobbled by Rossi, allowing the tying run to reach. OU's Monique Fuiava doubled to put runners on second and third as Penn State elected to bring in ace Jackie Hill (San Jose, Calif.).
On Saturday evening, Hill threw 18.2 innings and won both games for the Nittany Lions following a 16-inning marathon win over Fordham 12 hours earlier, but on Sunday she ran into some bad luck. Kaitlin Vitek's sharp liner to was dropped by Ostman in left allowing Howard to score before Hill gave up a two-run double to Alexa Peterson to give the Ducks their first lead of the day. Peterson went 3-for-3 on the afternoon.
Penn State looked to get the runs back immediately as they put two on in the sixth with one out against starter Jessica Moore. Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.) and Kasie Hatfield (Tampa, Fla.) knocked back-to-back singles as Oregon lifted Moore in favor of Brittany Rumfelt. The reliever went on to walk Alyssa Sovereign (La Canada, Calif.) on five pitches to load the bases, setting up the possible PSU rally. Moore re-entered the game and got a force out at home on a Hill grounder to short and pinch-hitter Morgan Long (Oro Valley, Ariz.) grounded out to end the inning.
Both teams went down quietly in the seventh as Oregon advanced to the Super Regionals for the second straight year. Penn State ended its season on a bright note despite the loss to Oregon, having won seven of eight entering the contest. Additionally, the Nittany Lions returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007, making its 10th appearances in the competition and winning its first postseason games since 2006.
Hill's line read 1.2 innings pitched with one hit and one run allowed, but none earned, to go along with two strikeouts. Akamine went 5.1 innings with four hits and two walks against, no earned runs and a lone strikeout. Moore got credit for all seven innings with four hits, one earned run and two walks allowed and give strikeouts, while Rumfelt had just the lone walk.
PSU fell to 0-5 against the Ducks all-time with three of those victories coming in NCAA play. Meanwhile, Hill's career ends in Happy Valley with 63 victories, 10 better than any other previous Nittany Lion. Hill capped her five years at Penn State with 689 total strikeouts, second-most in school history as she threw over 201 Ks for the second straight year, fourth-most in a single-season.
For the ninth time in 13 years, Penn State eclipsed the 30-win mark in a season as Penn State had its most successful Big Ten season since 2000, winning 11 games and finishing in fourth place. PSU also won its 11th and 12th NCAA games this weekend as the Nittany Lions hosted their first NCAA Regional since 1983. The highlight for the Penn State faithful will be the three-run 16th inning the Nittany Lions produced to advance to its third NCAA Regional Final since 2005.
The University Park Regional was met with rave reviews by visiting teams and the local fan base. For three days, over 1,800 fans attended six softball games at Nittany Lion Softball Park. Saturday's attendance of 751 was a new facility record and many of them weathered the 16-inning contest between PSU and Fordham. Beard Field is the home site of the PIAA Softball Championships, which will be held in June.
The Nittany Lions graduate three seniors from the squad in Hill, Ostman and Desi Giordano (West Caldwell, N.J), bringing back the majority of the team's offense and half its starting pitching staff for the 2012 season.