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Sophomore Ashley Esparza went 2-for-3 in the Lions' loss to Northwestern Saturday. The Lions host Illinois Sunday at noon in a doubleheader.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., April 8, 2006 - The Penn State softball team lost another narrow decision to No. 15 Northwestern on Saturday, 3-1. A day after the Wildcats narrowly escaped with a 1-0 victory in the seventh inning over the Lions, Northwestern was able to snatch victory again. Penn State is now 21-9 (1-5 Big Ten) while Northwestern is 25-8 on the year (6-0 Big Ten). The Lions host Illinois in a doubleheader Sunday starting at noon.
Penn State, the visiting team for the second game of the Big Ten match-up, tried to get on the board early, getting the offensive started in the top of the first inning. Junior lead-off hitter Jen Willliams (Stillwater, Okla.) got a single in her first attempt, and classmate Meghan Wolfer (Northampton, Pa.) moved the speedy outfielder to second base with a sacrifice bunt. Sophomore shortstop Jen Acunto (Hollywood, Fla.) walked to get Lion runners on first and second base, but Northwestern was able to stifle the Lions' charge and got out of the inning with a strikeout and an infield pop-up.
It didn't take long for the Wildcats to take advantage of the swing in momentum. Northwestern shortstop Tammy Williams drew a walk to start the bottom of the first inning and leftfielder Katie Logan followed with a single. The Lions were able to get the lead runner on the next play, charged a fielder's choice for Wildcat first baseman Garland Cooper. Cooper put the ball in play to Acunto, who was at shortstop for Penn State. Acunto got the ball to Lion third baseman Destinie Chavez (San Leandro, Calif.) for out No. 1. The Wildcats continued their charge, and with one swing of the bat for the second day in a row were able to take a victory away from Nittany Lion Field. This time it was designated hitter Kristen Amegin who hit the homer off Lion starter Ashley Esparza (San Pedro, Calif.). Penn State was able to get two of the next three Wildcats out, but time would show that the game-winning run had already crossed the plate.
Penn State's best opportunity to retake the lead came in the top of the fifth inning. Sophomore first baseman Esparza kick-started the offense with a double and was replaced on the basepaths by junior utility player Kari Lucas (State College, Pa.). Freshman designated player Danielle Kinley (Carlsbad, Calif.) singled in the only Penn State-RBI of the day, driving Lucas home. It was the only run the Lions would get despite a Northwestern error that extended the inning, leaving the final score a 3-1 Northwestern victory.
Lion hurler Esparza struck out three Wildcats in 2.0 innings, falling to 5-4 on the season. Penn State reliever Jenn Reynolds (Clovis, Calif.) went 4.0 innings with three strikeouts. Northwestern starter Courtnay Foster struck out 10 Lions in the complete-game effort and is 14-4 on the year.
The Nittany Lions host Illinois Sunday, April 10, for a Big Ten doubleheader starting at noon. The Lions remain home through next weekend with a double header vs. Bucknell on Tuesday, April 11, beginning at 6 p.m. and then a Big Ten match-up with Minnesota on Friday and Saturday, April 14 and 15, vs. Minnesota. All games will be held at Nittany Lion Field. An egg hunt will be held immediately after the April 15 contest with the Golden Gophers for kids 12 and under.