Softball Takes Series from Wisconsin with 8-3 Victory
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; March 30, 2007 - Penn State got its fifth straight win on Saturday when it came from behind to beat Wisconsin, 8-3. The Nittany Lions are now 16-12 (2-0 Big Ten), while Wisconsin falls to 16-9 (0-2 Big Ten). Minnesota comes to Happy Valley tomorrow for a doubleheader beginning at 10 a.m.
Penn State generated quality chances throughout the game. Freshman Ashley Griffith (Mt. Laurel, N.J.) started the contest with a bunt single that popped up before the pitcher, but gave the speedy lead-off enough time to get to first base safely. Senior Meghan Wolfer (Northampton, Pa.) laid down a sacrifice bunt that she nearly beat out to move Griffith to second. She advanced again on a high sacrifice fly from junior first baseman Ashley Esparza (San Pedro, Calif.). So with two outs, Penn State had a runner on third base and put another Lion on first after a walk to ensuing hitter Danielle Kinley (Carlsbad, Calif.), her third free pass of four that she would receive in the two-game series. That would bring pitcher Jenn Reynolds (Clovis, Calif.) to the plate. A double-steal attempt during her at-bat didn¡¯t go the Lions¡¯ way, however, as Wisconsin executed the play perfectly and threw the ball back to home in time to catch Griffith before she crossed the plate, leaving the game 0-0 heading into the bottom of the first.
A lead-off strikeout to Athena Vasquez was followed by centerfielder Sam Polito getting hit by a Reynolds¡¯ delivery, giving the Badgers¡¯ their first base runner of the day. Katie Hnatyk flew out to left field, but a single from third baseman Ricci Robben put runners at first and second for Wisconsin. Reynolds stepped it up and recorded her second strikeout of the inning sending first baseman Alexis Garcia and the Badgers back to the field in a scoreless tie.
The Lions jumped right back out in the top of the second inning, starting with a single through the left side from Reynolds. Junior classmate Jen Acunto (Hollywood, Fla.) laid down another great bunt as the Lions continued to play small ball, advancing pinch runner Kelsey Francisco (State College, Pa.) to second base. The Lions¡¯ offense continued with a looping single from the bat of Kayce Zielinski (Arlington, Texas) that landed in shallow left centerfield, moving Francisco to third with one out to give Penn State another great chance to score. It was not to be again, however, as a bunt didn¡¯t bounce the way Penn State would¡¯ve like it to, and Francisco was thrown out at home without zeros still on the board.
The game remained scoreless until a big two-run homerun by Robben made the tally a 2-0 Badger advantage in the bottom of the third inning. The Lions gave up another run in the bottom of the fourth inning when back-to-back errors put Penn State behind 3-0.
Penn State¡¯s offense finally got on the board in the top of the fifth inning when Shana Madura (Slate Hill, N.Y.) ripped a single through the left side of the Badger infield. A costly error on Wisconsin third baseman Robben got Griffith to first safely and continued her around all the way to third on the overthrow. Madura scored from first on the error, narrowing the lead to 3-1 Badgers. An error on the shortstop Lynn Anderson got Wolfer to first base and Esparza kept the rally going, hitting a single to shortstop putting runners on first and second. Kinley finally got a pitch she could hit and loaded the bases with a single to left field. A force out at home base left the Lions with the bases still loaded and only one out. Relief pitcher Eden Brock struck out the next Nittany Lion, but Zielinski brought the crowd to their feet with a two-out double that hit off the wall in centerfield, scoring three runs and turning the tables to a 5-3 Penn State lead.
Penn State increased its lead in the top of the seventh inning when Kinley got her second hit of the game, this time a double, to start things off. Acunto doubled her home with a one-out RBI-shot to right centerfield. The double puts Acunto three away from tying Megan Humphrey¡¯s record for career doubles at Penn State (38). With two outs, junior catcher Hollee Haines (Riverside, Calif.) built upon the Lions¡¯ 6-3 lead with an RBI double to left field, scoring Acunto. The Lions weren¡¯t done, however, as Madura continued to hit well for the series and placed a single just beyond the reach of a diving Katie Soderberg at second base to send pinch runner Sam Hovanec (Pittsburgh, Pa.) home for the 8-3 final. It was the first time all year Wisconsin had squandered a lead and lost after scoring first.
Reynolds got the win for Penn State with six strikeouts, raising her record to 8-5, while Esparza got the save in three innings of work. The save was her second of the year. Letty Olivarez took the loss for the Badgers, falling to 5-4.
Penn State next hosts a Big Ten doubleheader vs. Minnesota at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 1. The game will be held at Nittany Lion Field, which is located at the corner of University Drive and Park Avenue. Admission is free.