Nittany Lions Hang with Top-Ranked Michigan
April 21, 2011
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
No. 1 Michigan dealt Penn State a 5-4 loss in the first game of the mid-week doubleheader, and then outlasted the Lions in the second contest with the same final score of 5-4.
The first of the two games proved to be a battle on the mound as both teams showcased their top pitchers against opposing lineups that were ready to hit the ball.
Redshirt senior Jackie Hill got the nod for the Nittany Lions in game one against the Wolverines and did what she does best from the rubber. Against a pack of Wolverines that hits .332 as a team, Hill held Michigan to just five runs on 10 hits, and three of those five runs were unearned.
Michigan's Jordan Taylor set the tone off of the mound for the Wolverines and allowed just seven Nittany Lion hits for four runs. The 6-foot-1 Wolverine painted the corners of the plate consistently through seven innings and racked up a notable eight strikeouts against Penn State.
The Wolverines scored first with a pair of unearned runs in the third inning but Penn State answered back in the bottom of that inning when sophomore Kailyn Johnson blasted a two-out, three-run home run to right field. The hit was Johnson's fifth homer of the year and put the Nittany Lions up 3-2.
In the sixth inning, Michigan began to claw its way back after Bree Evans notched an RBI single to right field. Following the single, Lyndsay Doyle crossed the plate and capitalized on an infield error by Nittany Lion second baseman Lauren Yao who misplayed Nicole Sappingfield's ball. At the start to the bottom of the sixth, the Wolverines led the game 4-3.
The Nittany Lions' offense came alive again after Johnson recorded a leadoff single and her pinch runner and sophomore Alyssa Renwick advanced to third on a pass ball and fielder's choice. Yao stepped to the plate for Penn State with two outs and roped a liner that went in and out of Michigan third baseman Amanda Chidester's glove, but dropped to the ground to allow Renwick to score and tie the game at four apiece.
Despite the exciting Penn State battle back into the game, Michigan's Chidester cleared the right field fence with a solo shot in the seventh that the Nittany Lions would not be able to answer. Taylor got the win for the Wolverines who took the first game 5-4.
In the second of the two games, Penn State kept after the top team and again came up just short of the Wolverines. Michigan got to junior Nittany Lion pitcher Lisa Akamine early and scored three runs on four hits in the first inning against Penn State. The Nittany Lions retaliated in the bottom of the opening inning with two runs of their own against Michigan hurler Stephanie Speierman on four hits, to trail just 3-2 heading into the second.
After two solid innings on the mound from Akamine, Michigan was rewarded again in the fourth inning as each Evans and Amy Knapp recorded an RBI on two Penn State fielding errors. At the end of four, the Wolverines held a 5-2 lead.
Speierman delivered ten strikeouts after the first inning and kept the Nittany Lions' bats quiet until their final at-bats of the game. Trailing 5-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, senior Mary Ostman led off with a single up the middle. Ostman advanced to third after a sophomore Cassidy Bell chopped one toward first and Akamine hit a dribbler toward the left side of the infield. In another do-or-die situation with two outs and a runner on, Johnson came to the plate and delivered for Penn State with booming homer over the left field wall. Nipping at their heels, the Nittany Lions finished the game just one run behind Michigan with a score of 5-4.
Despite the two conference losses, however, the Penn State team seemed more than content with their outing against Michigan. Hill echoed head coach Robin Petrini's encouraging words after the game.
"I definitely think that we gave them all we could handle, I stole that from coach Petrini, she said that and it's definitely true," said Hill. "I thought we played really well. Our offense came out and put some runs on the board which we've struggled with up and down but today we had solid pitching and we can't afford to make mistakes against good teams and they cost us."
After a solid outing in the first contest against the Wolverines, Hill said that she and her teammates never doubted their capabilities against the top-ranked team.
"I think that after the first game we were definitely like alright, we can play with these guys you know," said Hill. "We were definitely right up there with them so we just knew that we could get after it the second game and we definitely had a chance to win."
Overall, coach Petrini reiterated the satisfactory remarks on the night and agreed that neither she nor her players would leave the ballpark with hanging heads.
"I told our kids you know you come out and play like that every game, we should run the table," said Petrini. "I think that that offense, that's the offense we've been waiting for. If that offense shows up on a regular basis we'll be in good shape."
This Penn State team now knows that it can play with the best competition in the country and they've got nothing to lose.