Softball Posts 2-1 Win: Will Meet Hofstra on Sunday for Right to Advance
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - May 20, 2006 - Penn State (38-16) used a comeback win to defeat Long Island (34-14), 2-1, in NCAA regional softball action to advance to play Hofstra (37-19) on Sunday. The winner of the that game will advance to the championship series where it will have to beat No. 6 Arizona State (49-13) twice to earn a berth in the NCAA Super Regionals next weekend. Championship play begins at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. All games will be broadcast by 970 AM WBLF as well as live on www.GoPSUsports.com. Live stats will also be available on Penn State's Official Athletic Website.
With Sunday's win, Penn State tied the program record for the number of victories in a season. Previously, the Lions had also won 38 in 2000.
Long Island struck first in the bottom of the first inning, scoring the elimination game's first run. Blackbird shortstop Celina Castillo walked to begin the inning. Randi Gillespie hit a single through the right side that tipped off a diving Kayce Zielinski's (Arlington, Texas) glove out to junior Meghan Wolfer (Northampton, Pa.) in right field. Castillo held up at third after Wolfer fired home. An Alyssa Winslow single that dropped in shallow center field scored Castillo to give Long Island a 1-0 lead early. With runners on first and second base, junior pitcher Jenn Reynolds (Clovis, Calif.) got the next Blackbird hitter to strikeout and the Lions followed it up with a groundout to third base to hold LIU to one run.
The Lions had offensive hopes in the second inning when sophomore catcher Hollee Haines (Riverside, Calif.) hit a single. Pinch runner Kari Lucas (Penns Valley, Pa.) would have to hold at first base through a strikeout on the next batter, but a wild pitch moved the speedy junior to second base during the next at-bat. Another strikeout followed, giving Penn State two outs and a base runner in scoring position, but it was not to be again as the last batter of the inning hit into a groundout to keep the score 1-0 Long Island.
Lead-off hitter Jen Williams (Stillwater, Okla.) hit her second straight infield hit of the day to give the Lions a base runner to start the third inning. Junior Jen Acunto (Hollywood, Fla.) bunted to third baseman Winslow, who got Williams at second. First team All-Great Lakes Region selection Ashley Esparza (San Pedro, Calif.) hit a double to the wall in center field that sent Acunto home to tie the game at 1-1. After an infield groundout, redshirt-senior Leigh Murray (Fairfax Station, Va.) ripped a single through the right side, sending Esparza around the base paths. Head coach Robin Petrini waved the 2005 All-American home, and Gillespie fired for the plate. Esparza gathered steam through third and headed for home, sliding in safely before Britnee Edwards could apply the tag. After two runs in the top of the third inning, Penn State had taken the lead 2-1.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Long Island shortstop's Castillo doubled to left field to try and help her team retake the lead. That hit prompted a pitching change in the 1-run contest, as redshirt-senior Missy Beseres (Golden Valley, Minn.) took to the circle. Vanessa Mejia popped up to Zielinski for the second out of the inning. Gillespie hit a single away from Acunto's glove hand that the second team all-region shortstop was able to knock it down, but couldn't get a play out of as Castillo moved to third base. LIU head coach Roy Kortmann substituted Nichole Lopez to run for Castillo with two more outs to play. Second team all-region pick Beseres got Winslow to pop up to Destinie Chavez (San Leandro, Calif.) for out No. 2 and then got the next hitter, Holly Erwin, herself at the plate swinging to end the threat.
In the top of the sixth inning, Haines singled for her second hit of the day, and advanced to second base on an error in the outfield after the ball came down. The ensuing Lion hitter popped up, but an LIU error on the shortstop Castillo allowed Chavez to reach base safely, advancing Haines to third base. Wolfer reached on a bunt single that loaded the bases for Penn State with one out in the inning. Williams reached on a fielder's choice as her dribbler was fielded by the Blackbird's catcher, who stepped on the plate to get Haines on the force out. A foul fly from Acunto left the bases loaded after three outs, but the Lions remained ahead 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Nittany Lion defense held on through the final two innings, preserving Penn State's first NCAA Regional win of the weekend.
Penn State (38-16) will meet Hofstra (37-19) Sunday, May 21 at 10 a.m. to vie for the right to meet No. 6 seed Arizona State in the championship game. The Pride outlasted Penn State earlier in the regional, 5-4, in eight innings of rain-delayed softball that stretched over two days, but then lost to ASU, 2-0 in eight innings. As they have no losses in two games, either team would have to beat the Sun Devils twice to advance to the Super Regional.