Softball Hosts Hot-Hitting No. 18/20 Illinois on Saturday and Sunday
April 16, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The fourth-place Penn State softball squad (26-12, 5-3 Big Ten) will face its toughest Big Ten foe yet when it hosts No. 18/20 Illinois (29-5, 3-2 Big Ten) for a pair of weekend games. Saturday's first pitch is set for 2:00 p.m. and Sunday is at 1:00 p.m. Both games will be on the air, the first on 1390 AM WRSC/GoPSUsports.com All-Access and the second on ComRadio.
Penn State trails in the all-time series 12-10 against Illinois and will try to upset the hot-hitting Illini. Earlier this week, Penn State split a doubleheader against Michigan State, a 1-0 loss in eight innings and a 2-1 win, to maintain fourth place in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions were led by pitchers Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) and Jackie Hill (San Jose, Calif.). Akamine threw a career-high 14 strikeouts, shutting out the Spartans over the first seven innings. The 14 strikeouts match the second-most thrown in a single game by a PSU pitcher. Hill scattered three hits and a run over a complete-game shutdown of the Michigan State offense en route to her 12th win of the season in Game Two vs. MSU.
(29-5, 3-2 Big Ten)
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
(26-12, 5-3 Big Ten)
Games #38-39: April 17-18, 2010 (2 p.m./1 p.m.) Nittany Lion Field University Park, Pa.
For Perry's numbers against Penn State check out the complete game notes.
SERIES HISTORY: The Nittany Lions look to get back to their winning ways against the Illini this weekend after dropping seven of the past eight games. In Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions hold a 6-4 edge including a split in 2008. Last season, PSU dropped a 7-3 decision before a wild 18-15 affair the next day. Both games were played without the Lions' ace Jackie Hill who had an injury. Desi Giordano had a career day at the plate going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and five RBI, which included two home runs. In that game, Penn State belted five home runs total but a 10-run fourth ended the Lions' chances.
COMMON OPPONENTS: The Lions and Illini share three common opponents this year with PSU going 5-0, while Illinois 2-1. Penn State swept Kent State (5-2, 9-5) and Florida Gulf Coast (4-3, 4-2). The Illini went 2-0 against those teams, a 10-0 win over KSU and a 6-1 win over FGCU. Against San Diego State, Penn State knocked off the Aztecs 3-1 in their home ballpark, while Illinois dropped a 5-3 neutral contest.
GRIFFITH EARNS MCCOY HONOR: Senior outfield Ashley Griffith was named Penn State's female Ernest B. McCoy Award recipient on April 16. The award is presented annually to the top male and top female student-athlete who combine successful athletic participation with academic excellence. McCoy was PSU's athletic director and Dean of the College of Physical Education from 1952-70, his name adorns the natatorium. The men's recipient was soccer forward Jason Yiesley, who was named the conference's most oustanding offensive player and drafted by FC Dallas of the MLS.
MICHIGAN STATE SPLIT: The Nittany Lions struggled in a Game One 1-0 eight-inning loss to Michigan State to find any offense, supplying three runners in scoring positition during the game, but not sending any of them home. In the circle, Lisa Akamine posted a career day with 14 strikeouts, the second most in school history. The sophomore hurler also matched her career-high in innings pitched with eight, while walking none, but three consecutive hits in extra innings doomed the Lions to a loss. In Game Two, the bottom of the order saved the squad offensively. Lauren Yao, batting ninth, ripped her first extra-base hit of the season, a leadoff triple down the right field line in the third inning. Cassidy Bell drove her home with a sacrifice fly and knotted the score at one. The Nittany Lions would generate more leadoff offense in the fifth inning, this time from the eight spot in Desi Giordano. The junior third baseman took a 2-2 pitch deep over the center field wall for the deciding run, her team-leading sixth homer of the season and a 2-1 Penn State win. Jackie Hill went the distance in the circle, scattering three hits, one walk and striking out nine for her first win since Mar. 14.
WISCONSIN SWEEP: Penn State captured its first Big Ten sweep of the season when it beat Wisconsin, 3-1 and 3-0, on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. It was the fourth and fifth straight times PSU beat the Badgers and the wins gave Penn State a four-game winning streak. Lisa Akamine pitched in both games, earning two wins while pitching 10 innings overall and allowing only one run. The sophomore hurler also came up with a big two-run RBI single on Sunday to help herself, while Jackie Hill picked up the save in Saturday's game. Ashley Griffith added a pair of RBI singles to left field and went 3-for-3 on Sunday afternoon. It was the team's first Big Ten sweep since last year's 2009 series against Wisconsin on 4/11-12.
ANOTHER MID-WEEK SPLIT: Penn State returned its current form of slipping in the first half of a doubleheader before winning the second game when the Lions took on Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Pittsburgh jumped out to a 6-1 lead through the first six and a half innings before a Penn State last-ditch rally fell short, eventually dooming PSU to a 6-3 loss. The Nittany Lions bounced back, pouncing on the Panthers in Game Two with three runs in the bottom of the first, supplying all the offense sophomore hurler Lisa Akamine would need. Akamine went the distance allowing just a seventh-inning solo home run en route to her seventh straight win in a start. Akamine is now 12-3 on the season with the 5-1 win over Pittsburgh, doubling her win total from a year ago (six).
AKAMINE BRINGS HER "A" GAME: Sophomore pitcher Lisa Akamine had an admittedly rough start to her season. In her first outing, she was knocked around for eight hits, eight earned runs, three doubles and two homers on February 12 vs. Colorado State in just three innings of work. In her next start, she gave up three earned runs and nine hits in a win over UTSA (Feb. 13), but faltered the next day against Nebraska, giving up a one-run lead in the sixth, allowing five earned runs. After a four-run 6.2 inning relief appearance against Western Kentucky on Feb. 19, Akamine's numbers sat at 7.24 in earned run average, a record at 1-2 with over 31 hits against in just 19 innings. Starting with a two-inning relief appearance against Utah State, Akamine has been resilient and arguably Penn State's most consistent pitcher. The Escondido, Calif. native has started 12 games since Feb. 19, winning 11 of those games, en route to an 14-3 overall record and a more respectable 2.13 overall ERA. Akamine has tossed 89 innings going 13-1 in that span with a paltry 1.02 ERA, winning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors on March 29. Coming into this week's series, Akamine has won eight starts in a row and nine straight decisions.
For Akamine's breakdown, check out the complete game notes
PURDUE EASTER WRAPUP: PSU fell to Purdue on Saturday, Apr. 3 by a 5-0 score line behind three homers by the Boilers before Penn State pulled out a clutch extra-inning 2-1 win on Easter Sunday. Lisa Akamine went the distance not allowing an earned run in eight innings for her fifth straight win in a start, upping her record to 11-3. In the top of the seventh, Desi Giordano crushed a homer down the left field line into the wind for a 1-0 lead. Purdue got one back in the bottom half on an error by Lauren Rossi. In the eighth, two-out singles by Danee Collett and Kailyn Johnson brought Rossi to the plate, who redeemed herself with a game-winning RBI single to right field. It was the fourth time this year Rossi has hit home the game-tying or game-winning RBI this year. Previous occasions were a bunt single game-tying RBI vs. Colorado State, a game-tying RBI double at South Florida and a game-winning two-run RBI double vs. Boston College. Collett went 8-for-12 in four games last week with a 1.083 slugging percentage.
TWILIGHT TWINBILL SWEEP: For the third time in a week, Penn State played a doubleheader, and unlike the first two twinbills, which the Lions split, PSU swept the Kent State Golden Flashes. In the first game, Penn State fell behind 2-0 with a pair of solo shots by KSU before exploding for three runs in the fifth inning to make a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. The rally was highlighted by Cassidy Bell's first collegiate a homer, a liner to straightaway centerfield that put PSU ahead, 3-2. The Lions would tag the plate again when Rachel Myers came home to score on a wild pitch in the inning. Kailyn Johnson's second double of the game came in the sixth inning and scored Bell for the final 5-2 tally. Jackie Hill went the distance with nine strikeouts for her 11th win of the season in the circle. In Game Two, after the teams traded unearned first-inning runs, each team was held scoreless for the next three and a half innings before Kent State hung three on the board in the fifth for a 4-1 lead. In the sixth inning, after a bases-loaded RBI ground out by Kimi Wong, Bell ripped a single up the middle to score two more and knot the game at four apiece. Up came Danee Collett with two outs and two on. She took a 1-0 fastball over the centerfield wall for a three-run blast and a 7-4 Penn State lead, capping a six-run sixth inning. Desi Giordano added two insurance runs with a bomb of her own and Hill tallied her league-leading third save of the season for a 9-5 Penn State win before darnkess set in to end the game early.
FIVE MULTI-RUN COMEBACKS: Penn State has overcome multi-run comebacks five times this season, three of which have come in the past week. The first major comeback camein a 7-2 game in the third inning against Colorado State, as Penn State would go on to win 9-8 in extra innings. PSU staged a comeback with four unanswered runs in a 4-2 win over Florida Gulf Coast on March 14. Just this past Saturday in Game Two vs. Minnesota, PSU found itself down 2-0 after a half-inning and would go on to outscore the Golden Gophers 8-1 the rest of the way before the comebacks of two and three runs over Kent State on Wednesday.
BIG TEN OPENING DOUBLEHEADER vs. MINNESOTA: Penn State split an impromptu doubleheader on March 27 against Minnesota to kick off the Big Ten campaign. The Nittany Lions dropped the first game 3-2 after falling behind 3-0 and rallying with two runs in the seventh to get within one. With two runners on, Minnesota managed a ground out to killy the rally and pick up the win. In Game Two, which was moved up from Sunday morning to Saturday due to a poor forecast, Penn State fell behind again, this time 2-0, after one half inning. The Lions exploded for seven runs in the next three innings, never looking back en route to a dominating 8-3 win. For the two games, Ashley Griffith and Cassidy Bell hit .500, a combined 5-for-10 with six runs scored at the top of the lineup, while Lisa Akamine and Danee Collett each went 3-for-7. Collett added two runs, a double and two RBI as well. In the circle, Akamine got the win in the second game with a complete game, two-run effort, allowing four hits and walking nine.
SPLITTING SAINT FRANCIS: The Nittany Lions bounced back from a 5-3 afternoon loss to Saint Francis with an impressive 8-0, six-inning win over the Red Flash to split a March 24 doubleheader. Penn State smashed three homers, one each from Danee Collett, Desi Giordano, and Lauren Rossi. In the circle, Lisa Akamine had her most dominant performance yet this year, tossing 11.1 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits, while walking none in a 14-strikeout performance. Akamine picked up the win in the second game to improve to 8-3, while lowering her season earned-run average to 2.65 and provided the game-ending hit, an RBI single, to finish things off in the sixth. The game also marked the final home opener in the 45-year history of Nittany Lion Field.
OFFICIAL RADIO BROADCAST HOME: On Thursday, March 25, Penn State announced the radio home of Nittany Lion softball for the remainder of the 2010 season. Eight home games will be broadcast on 1390 AM WRSC in the State College area. All of those games will also be streamed on All-Access for free so that fans can tune in and listen. As scheduled, March 27th's game against Minnesota, Game One vs. Pittsburgh (Apr. 6), both Michigan State games (Apr. 14) will kick off the radio slate. Other games to be broadcast are against Illinois (Apr. 17), Iowa (Apr. 24), Syracuse Game One (Apr. 27) and Ohio State (May 8). ComRadio traveled with the team on March 31 to Kent State for a doubleheader, the first away broadcast by a Penn State crew to do a softball game. Other radio additions may be announced at a later date, specifically for away games. Combined with the two Big Ten Network television broadcasts and two bigtennetwork.com webcasts, at least 24 of the final 27 games will have live coverage from the broadcast booth.
USF UNDER ARMOUR SHOWCASE SWEEP: The Nittany Lions endured a delayed start to the USF Under Armour Showcase when heavy rain wiped out play on Friday, Mar. 12. When play resumed, Jackie Hill put together three-straight masterpieces effectively shutting down Kennesaw State (5-0), Southern Illinois (1-0) and Florida Gulf Coast (4-2). Lisa Akamine helped lead the Lions past Boston College, 2-1, when Lauren Rossi's bloop hit scored two in the bottom of the sixth for the team's fifth-straight victory and a perfect 4-0 mark in the Showcase, the best record of all participants. Against Kennesaw State and Southern Illinois, Penn State received strong performances from Alyssa Renwick and Ashley Griffith who each hit 3-for-6 apiece in the two games with flawless performances in the field. In the circle, Hill went 21.1 innings with just a two-run homer against FGCU being the only blemish on her docket for the weekend. Moreover, Hill came in for the final out against Boston College to record the save with the winning run at the plate.
MIDWEEK SPLIT: After a tough 5-2 loss to Central Michigan, in which Jackie Hill was fighting a stomach illness, Penn State rebounded with a 6-3 win over Saint Joseph's. Lisa Akamine went the distance in the circle with eight strikeouts, while freshman Cassidy Bell went 2-for-3 with two runs scored in her first appearance in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Danee Collett, Morgan Long, Lauren Rossi and Alyssa Renwick all tallied one RBI apiece to lead the Lions at the plate. Against Central Michigan, Rossi belted her first collegiate home run.
USF UNDER ARMOUR INVITE RECAP: The Nittany Lions' 11-day stay in Florida got off to a strong start when Penn State knocked off Central Michigan (3-1) and Florida Gulf Coast (4-3) in a split doubleheader. For all that went correct in those games, the opposite happened the following day against Ball State, a 1-0 loss, and Florida International, a 5-0 loss. Penn State's bats started to go silent, registering just five hits, while committing seven errors, which led to four of the six runs allowed. The Lions looked set to suffer the same fate the next day against host South Florida, mustering just one hit, trailing 1-0 with two outs to go. Lauren Rossi belted a game-tying double to right center to send the game into extra innings and three more tallies in the 10th inning backed a career performance by Jackie Hill (10 IP, 1 ER 11 K) in the circle to capture a 4-2 win and a 3-2 weekend record.
LIONS AT THE PIRATE CLASSIC: Penn State got to a roaring start in the ECU Pirate Classic, defeating Towson (10-1), Delaware (9-1) and Morehead State (11-0) in run-rule fashion. Penn State outscored its first three opponents 30-2 and scored 17 runs in the first frame. Lisa Akamine was the Lions' best all-around player as she hit .571 at the plate and threw 11.1 innings in the circle, allowing three hits and two runs, picking up the win in all three decisions, improving to 4-1. Cassidy Bell had a superb weekend hitting .538 behind 7-for-13 batting with a team-high five RBI and seven runs scored. Danee Collett and Ashley Griffith batted .500 with Collett driving home four and Griffith scoring five times. Over the last three trips to Greenville, N.C., Penn State has racked up a 10-2 record dating back to 2006.
CAMPBELL/CARTIER WRAP UP: The Nittany Lions headed out west for the second straight week and for the second straight time came back with three wins. Penn State led off with a 5-4 loss to Western Kentucky, unable to overcome a 5-2 deficit. The Nittany Lions quickly rebounded, downing the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos by a 3-1 score thanks to Jackie Hill's performance in the circle. She would throw another pair of one-run performances on Saturday in defeating Utah State (6-1) and host San Diego State (3-1) to run the team's record to 6-3. Penn State capped its weekend in California with a match up against No. 1 Washington on Sunday, a game that would be rained out in the fourth inning as the teams were tied, 0-0. Hill and consensus national player of the year Danielle Lawrie were matching zeros through the first three innings in a pitchers' duel with PSU's Mary Ostman reaching third base in the third inning, but unable to score.
400 THE ALMA MATER WAY: Head coach Robin Petrini achieved a milestone achievement when Penn State beat Utah State, 6-1, on Saturday. Petrini, a 1983 graduate of Utah State, where she won two AIAW National Championships as a shortstop, also picked up win No. 401 against San Diego State later that day. She was greeted by a cookie cake and balloons at the hotel to commemorate the achievement. Already the all-time leading coach in wins at Penn State, Petrini has also led the squad to more NCAA appearances (seven) in her 13 years than the program had before her arrival (two). She'll go for win No. 402 against Towson, the team she beat for her first career win back in 1997.
HOT START IN NEW MEXICO: The Nittany Lions got off to a roaring start at the Hotel Encanto Invitational last weekend with a 12-3 run-rule win over UTEP and a thrilling late-night come from behind 9-8 win over Colorado State to open Friday. The two wins on opening day was the first 2-0 start to a season since 1997 for Penn State. The next day, PSU lost a back-and-forth slugfest, 10-9, to host New Mexico State. The following game, PSU got up early on UTSA, and cruised to an 8-4 win. On Sunday, Penn State dropped another back-and-forth game, surrendering a sixth-inning lead to Nebraska in an 11-6 loss. Penn State finished third in the Hotel Encanto Invitational standings, behind NMSU (4-1) and Nebraska (3-2).
HOTEL ENCANTO ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Sophomore catcher Danee Colett earned mention on the 2010 Hotel Encanto Invitational All-Tournament Team. Collett hit a team-high .471 for the weekend with eight hits, one homer and a double, while driving in seven RBI. For the weekend she got on base at a clip of .500 and slugged .706 while posting a nearly flawless performance on behind the plate (40 putouts, zero errors, one passed ball).
BOMBS OVER LAS CRUCES: Homers weren't hard to come by in the thin air of Las Cruces (Elevation 4,300 feet), in total, 43 home runs were hit by the six teams in the tournament. Penn State alone hit 10 homers and scored 44 runs. To put that in perspective, the Nittany Lions hit 20 homers all of last year and scored 145 runs, 30 percent of the team's total from a 46-game schedule in 2009. Also, the team "only" hit for seven doubles and a triple. Desi Giordano and Kailyn Johnson led the team with two dingers apiece, while Mary Ostman, Danielle Noll, Jackie Hill, Alyssa Renwick and Johnson smashed their first collegiate homers. Kimi Wong hit her second-career homer vs. Nebraska. As a team, the squad hit .324 at the plate, while reaching safely at a .423 clip and slugging .604.
FIRST TIME MEETINGS: Penn State will see the final five teams for the first time in softball. Florida Gulf Coast (3/5), Florida International (3/6), Kennesaw State (3/14), Middle Tennessee State (3/13), and Stony Brook (3/12) will all be first-time matchups. Last week, PSU downed Morehead State 11-0 (5 inn.) to raise its record to 2-1 against first-time opponents. PSU defeated UTEP 12-3 (5 inn.) to open the season, but dropped a 5-4 decision to Western Kentucky for the previous meetings.
BIG STAGE, BIG TEN NETWORK: The Big Ten Network announced its annual televised softball schedule on Feb. 18 and at least four Penn State games will be broadcast live on television or through the network's website, BigTenNetwork.com. Penn State's games at Michigan (4/21) will be on the BTN's website, while the two matchups at Northwestern (5/1-2). There's a possibility that PSU's games at Indiana (5/14-15) could be picked up as part of the Big Ten Network's wild card weekend.
ALL-BIG TEN RETURNERS: The Nittany Lions return two 2009 All-Big Ten performers, Ashley Griffith (Second Team) and Lisa Akamine (Third Team) to the fold. In addition to those two, Penn State also sees Jackie Hill, a 2008 All-Region selection, as its leading pitcher.
TEAM COMPOSITION: All told, Penn State has 11 Lions back on the squad from 2009, while welcoming in seven newcomers. Five starters will return to their normal positions in Ashley Griffith (LF), Desi Giordano (3B), Jackie Hill (P/1B/DP), Lisa Akamine (P/DP), and Danee Collett (C). So far this season, Cassidy Bell (CF), Alyssa Renwick (SS) and Kailyn Johnson (1B/DP) have filled in at their spots everyday, while second base (Lauren Yao/Morgan Long/Lauren Rossi) and right field (Mary Ostman/Danielle Noll) are being platooned for now.
FALL BALL SUCCESS: The Nittany Lions had an impressive fall season as they welcomed their newcomers to the fold. Penn State went 5-1, including a back-to-back doubleheader sweeps in the Nittany Lion Fall Tournament, beating Virginia Tech (3-2), Iona (5-0), NCAA Division II Champ Lock Haven (4-2) and Saint Francis (2-0). In the Iona game, Lisa Akamine fanned 14 batters and was two outs away from a no-hit bid. Prior to the tournament, the Lions played a doubleheader against local rival Bucknell. Jackie Hill tossed a no-hitter to give Penn State a 1-0 victory in game one, while Akamine allowed just one earned run in a 2-1 eight-inning loss in the nightcap.
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NEXT TIME OUT: Penn State continues its difficult stretch of schedule as the Nittany Lions travel to Ann Arbor, Mich. for a doubleheader at #2/2 Michigan. The first game is set for 5:00 p.m. with the second one immediately following. Both matchups can be watched live on BigTenNetwork.com, be followed through Twitter (@PSULionSoftball) and have live stats through GameTracker.
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