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May 4, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Nittany Lion softball team hits the road for the final time this season to take on Illinois at Eichelberger Field beginning Saturday with a 2:00 p.m. ET doubleheader. Both games will be carried live on BTN.com before Sunday's finale at 11:30 a.m. ET. The Sunday game will be shown tape-delayed on Big Ten Network at 3:00 p.m. ET.
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (17-27, 8-10 Big Ten)
Games 45-47: May 5-6 Eichelberger Field Urbana, Ill.
VENUE: Eichelberger Field (1,500)
COVERAGE: BTN.com (Saturday), Big Ten Network (Sunday at 3 p.m.)
ALL-TIME SERIES: Penn State trails 15-11
LAST MEETING: 4/3/11, ILL 12-2 (5 inn., Urbana, Ill.)
NEXT SERIES: May 11 (DH), May 12 vs. Ohio State
Nittany Lions hit road for final time in 2012 at Illinois for three-game set
Penn State and Illinois split last season's series in Urbana
Nittany Lions coming off historic sweep of Minnesota, winning all three games in walk-off fashion, overcoming three seventh-inning deficits and three 3-0 deficits
PSU improved to 9-2 at home, improving to 20-10-1 all-time at Beard Field
Illinois took two of three games from first-place Michigan last weekend
Nittany Lions hit .291 off Minnesota ace Sara Moulton with a .396 OBP
Senior Lisa Akamine is 4-0 in her last four outings, striking out 36
During Big Ten play, Cassidy Bell leads in home runs (9) and total bases (42)
The Nittany Lions have struck 10 leadoff homers this season
SCOUTING THE FIGHTING ILLINI
Illinois (24-23, 7-11 Big Ten) is clicking at the right time of the season, making a late push for an NCAA bid. The Fighting Illini have won six of its last nine games, beating Purdue and Michigan twice each during that span. Also crucial to the Illini cause is the return of sluggers Meredith Hackett and Kelley Wedel from injury. Hackett (.292) is the team's leader in home runs (9), RBI (28), slugging (.575) and on-base percentage (.437), missing five games recently. Wedel is coming off an 18-game layoff, hitting .284 with a team best 10 doubles, good for second on the team in slugging (.432). Illinois is hitting .233 overall with 48 doubles and 16 homers. The strength of the Blue and Orange is in the circle led by Pepper Gay's 1.94 ERA and 182 strikeouts. She owns a 20-13 record with five shutouts in 202 innings of work, holding opposing batters to .212.
SERIES HISTORY vs. ILL
All-Time Series: PSU trails 15-11
PSU Streak: 1 loss
First Meeting: 4/7/01, PSU 7-0
Last Meeting: 4/3/11, ILL 12-2 (5)
Last PSU Win: 4/2/11, 4-2
Last ILL Win: 4/3/11, 12-2 (5)
Largest PSU Win: 13-0 (5), 4/5/08
Largest ILL Win: 11-1 (6), 4/4/08
PSU Record at ILL: 3-7
Petrini vs. ILL: 11-15
Penn State split with Illinois last season, winning the opener 4-2 before dropping a 12-2 decision. Kailyn Johnson's two-run homer was the difference in the 4-2 win as Jackie Hill took the W in five-hit ball, striking out 10 and giving up two unearned runs. Illinois opened a 2-0 game with a pair of five-run innings in the second and fourth to salvage a series split.
Last 11 Meetings
4/3/11: L, 2-12 (5 inn.) - A
4/2/11: W, 4-2 -- A
4/18/10: L, 2-3 -- H
4/17/10: L, 0-4 -- H
3/22/09: L, 15-18 -- A
3/21/09: L, 3-7 -- A
4/5/08: W, 13-0 (5 inn.) -- H
4/4/08: L, 1-11 (6 inn.) -- H
4/22/07: L, 4-7 -- A
4/22/07: L, 3-4 -- A
4/9/06: L, 5-7 -- H
GRITTY LIONS RECORD HISTORIC SWEEP OF MINNESOTA
Three seventh-inning deficits were all overcome by three incredible comebacks by Penn State as the Nittany Lions swept Minnesota in a three-game series at Beard Field (Apr. 28-29). The Golden Gophers raced out to identical 3-0 leads in all three games, only to see Penn State battle back in the seventh while trailing and win each game in walk-off fashion. The sweep was Penn State's first three-game feat over the Golden Gophers in program history and improved the Lions to 9-2 at Nittany Lion Softball Park. Pitcher Lisa Akamine won all three games, going 19.1 innings with 26 strikeouts, holding the Gophers to .176 batting for the week. Nine different Lion batters tallied at least two hits against the Big Ten's most dominant pitcher in Sara Moulton, who took two losses on the weekend.
Game One (RECAP, BOX SCORES & VIDEO)
Down 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh, Penn State rallied to beat Minnesota, 6-5. Kasie Hatfield led off with a double down the leftfield line, reaching third on a Koch wild pitch. Lisa Akamine walked and Presto's single to left tied the game at five all. Kelsey Kimminau came in relief of Koch as speedy Shannon Hutchinson singled to the shortstop as Akamine beat the throw to the bag at third, loading the bases. Kimminau got a strikeout for the first out of the inning before Bell's blooper behind second base could not be corralled, scoring Alyssa Renwick from third on the fielder's choice, giving Penn State its second walk-off win of the year. Liz Presto went 2-for-4 with a career-high four RBI in the game including massive three-run double in a 12-pitch at-bat to tie the game at three in the fourth inning.
Game Two (RECAP, BOX SCORES & VIDEO)
As if the opener wasn't exciting enough, Penn State found away to make the nightcap even better. Penn State again trailed entering the seventh, but a three-run rally highlighted by Cassidy Bell's two-run single to rightfield, and Alyssa Sovereign's eighth-inning single to left-centerfield gave the Blue and White a resounding doubleheader sweep, 4-3. Kailyn Johnson's bloop single tied the game in the bottom of the seventh as PSU was down to its final strike. Liz Presto again tallied two hits as did Danee Collett to pace PSU. Lisa Akamine had another solid outing, winning her third straight decision in the process, going all eight innings with five hits, three earned runs and three walks allowed, while striking out 10 batters.
Game Three (RECAP, BOX SCORE, VIDEO & PHOTOS)
Penn State was heroic again on Sunday at Beard Field, beating Minnesota for the third straight time in walk-off fashion as Lauren Yao clubbed a single to win, 4-3. The Nittany Lions trailed 3-0 early, but chipped away at the lead and prevailed with its last two batters down to their last strike. Lisa Akamine scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-1 before Alyssa Sovereign's double made it 3-2 in the fourth inning. Kailyn Johnson's single in the bottom of the seventh continued the rally and Yao finished it off scoring Alyssa Renwick and Johnson. Akamine went all seven innings, allowing just two hits and three runs while striking out 10 for the second straight game.
COME BACK HERE!
Penn State has produced eight comeback victories this year, four of which came while trailing entering the seventh inning. Only Northern Iowa has as many victories while trailing in the seventh inning. Aside from the three PSU walk-off wins over Minnesota this past weekend, the Nittany Lions registered a 4-3 win over Lipscomb on Mar. 4 down 3-1 in the seventh. As for walk-offs, Penn State has four of those as well with Kasie Hatfield's ninth-inning two-run blast against Michigan State (Apr. 8) accounting for the other walk-off before this weekend.
HOME SWEET HOME
Penn State is 9-2 at home this season, winning the nine of the last 10 games. Last season the Nittany Lions went 11-8-1 in the inaugural year at Beard Field and Nittany Lion Softball Park, meaning PSU is 20-10-1 all-time. In all non-conference games, Penn State is 7-5 at Beard Field with a 13-5 mark in Big Ten play. Another home field advantage has been comeback victories. Thirteen of the 20 wins at Beard Field have been in comeback fashion with six walk-off victories all-time, four of which have been in extra innings.
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
Junior centerfielder Cassidy Bell sat out 18 games from February until her return on Mar. 24 at Michigan due to an emergency appendectomy. Since her return, Bell has been on fire and one of the most consistent hitters in the country, tallying eight multi-hit games in the last 21 outings. Currently, she's hitting .397 overall, having posted a hit in 21 of the 24 games she's played. Her return saw an 0-for-3 showing at Michigan, but since then she has gone 28-for-62 (.452) at the plate with nine home runs, two doubles and a triple. In the series at Purdue, Bell hit .636 (7-for-11), before going 4-for-12 against Michigan State (.333). On Apr. 25 against Kent State, the Golden Flashes were unable to retire Bell as she went 4-for-4 with two home runs, four runs batted in, four runs scored and three walks. She has raised her career average to .321 during the 21-game hitting barrage, which has seen her reach base in all but one game. She wrapped up a nine-game hitting streak at Wisconsin, but is now on a five-hit tear. In the last 21 games she is slugging .952 and getting on base at .564, drawing 13 walks. In Big Ten play alone, she leads all conference players in homers (6) and total bases (45), while ranking second in slugging (.804), tied-third in hits (23), ninth in on-base percentage (.507) and 10th in average (.411).
More notes can be found in the PDF copy.
NEXT TIME OUT
Penn State returns home for the final series of the season on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12. PSU hosts Ohio State on Friday in a doubleheader starting at 4:00 p.m. The first game of the twinbill will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network. Saturday's game, set for 1 p.m., is Senior Day honoring the careers of Lisa Akamine, Danee Collett, Morgan Long, Ellen McNair and Ashley Todd. All three games will be carried live over the air on 1390 AM WRSC in State College and on GoPSUsports.com. The Saturday matchup will also be streamed live on BTN.com.