Softball Sweeps Final Conference Weekend with 1-0 Victory Over Ohio State
Junior designated player Jen Williams hit the game-winning single Sunday in the Lions' last regular season game, a 1-0 win over Ohio State.
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. - May 7, 2006 - With a 1-0 victory over Ohio State on Sunday, Penn State picked up the No. 5 seed in the 2006 Big Ten Softball Tournament. The Lions (37-14, 10-10 Big Ten) will meet No. 4 Ohio State (37-20, 11-7 Big Ten) again on Friday, May 12 at 11:30 a.m. in their opening game of the conference tournament. The tournament will be held at Northwestern from May 11-13 after the Wildcats clinched the 2006 championship. The Big Ten Tournament appearance is Penn State's seventh in the last eight years.
Penn State recorded its first hit of the game in the top of the second as red hot freshman Danielle Kinley (Carlsbad, Calif.) connected for a leadoff single to left field. Three consecutive outs would end the inning for the Nittany Lions, as Kinley would be stranded.
Ohio State picked up its first hit of the game in the bottom of the third with a two-out single up the middle by Buckeye catcher Lauren Daykin. Daykin would be left on base as an unassisted Ashley Esparza (San Pedro, Calif.) put out at first would end the inning.
The top of the fourth inning, sophomore shortstop Jen Acunto (Hollywood, Fla.) connected for a leadoff single for the Nittany Lions. Esparza would then reach first on a fielder's choice, moving Acunto to second on a close play. Kinley, who is now batting .354 in Big Ten play, advanced both runners on her at-bat, but couldn't beat the throw for the first out of the inning. Buckeye pitcher Jamee Juarez then retired two Nittany Lion batters to end the inning, leaving two runners stranded and the score still knotted at 0-0.
The game continued to be test of endurance for the defenses, and as innings waned it was obvious the game could be won or lost on a single play. In the bottom of the sixth, Buckeye first baseman Christina Douglas hit a leadoff double to centerfield to get the Ohio State offense rolling. A sacrifice bunt would move Douglas to third with just one out on the scoreboard and create some tense moments for the Lion fans in attendance. A walk then put runners on first and third for the Buckeyes. Right fielder Brittany Vanderink reached first on a fielder's choice while the Nittany Lions went after Douglas' pinch runner Stephanie Hill. Hill was caught at home with time to spare to keep the Buckeyes off the board thanks to a stellar throw to catcher Hollee Haines (Riverside, Calif.) from Acunto. Ohio State still had runners at first and second but a strike out by Lion pitcher Jenn Reynolds (Clovis, Calif.) sent the Buckeyes back to the field with score still 0-0.
The top of the seventh saw Reynolds help own cause by recording a key leadoff single to centerfield for Penn State. Haines then reached first on a fielder's choice and pinch runner Kari Lucas (State College, Pa.) would reach second and advance to third on a Buckeye fielding error. Senior third baseman Destinie Chavez (San Leandro, Calif.) bunted and reached first, but Lucas was called out at home on an unassisted put out from Ohio State catcher Lauren Daykin. Junior designated player Jen Williams (Stillwater, Okla.) came through with the clutch RBI for the Nittany Lions with a two-out single to centerfield that scored pinch runner Shana Madura (Slate Hill, N.Y.) to put Penn State up 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh.
Reynolds came out in the bottom of the seventh with renewed purpose and led Penn State to the 1-0 win on three straight outs, recording her ninth victory of the season. The sophomore struck out four in the contest, while Buckeye pitcher Jaime Juarez got nine Lions at the plate. The shutout was the 20th of the season for Penn State's pitching staff, and halted the Buckeyes school-record 28-game run without being shutout.
Penn State is one win from tying the school records for victories in a season (38).