Penn State Rallies To Beat Kent State in Extras

Story posted March 18, 2018 in Sports, CommRadio by Joe Skinner

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After splitting a doubleheader on Beard Field’s opening day, the Penn State Nittany Lions (3-18) had a chance to win their first series of the 2018 season in the rubber match Sunday.  The Kent State Golden Flashes (12-9) jumped out to an early lead, but late game heroics gave the Nittany Lions the win, 11-10. 

“All my teammates have been doing it all day, just punching in runners and it was just another at-bat,” Penn State junior Tori Dubois said.  “The energy from the crowd and the energy from one another, it was just a different atmosphere for us.”

Penn State was able to grab the early lead when the team drew four walks and chased Kent State starter Emily Dobbins before she could get out of the first inning.  Delaney Elling, Paige Johnson, Kennedy Legg and Toni Polk were all able to reach base, but the Nittany Lions could only score one run in the inning. 

Penn State starter Jessica Cummings was able to hold the prolific Golden Flashes offense at bay for the first two innings to only one run.  Kent State is hitting .287 on the season as a team and was able to put up an additional two runs in the visitor’s half of the third inning to push their lead to 3-1. 

“We knew as soon as we went down that we had the fight to come back,” Dubois said.  “We’ve been down a lot this year, so we were used to it and we knew what we had to do to win.”

Penn State was able to match Kent State’s runs in the third inning to tie the game at 3, but it was only a matter of time before three-time defending MAC player of the week Holly Speers made her impact on the game.  Speers is hitting .556 on the season, good for third best in the NCAA.  In the fourth inning, Speers launched her sixth home run of the season over the right-field wall to give the Golden Flashes another two-run lead. 

“I’m really proud of my kids fight today, they never gave up,” Penn State head coach Amanda Lehotak said.  “It wasn’t pretty in some areas of the game, but they fought and it was good to see our offense rise to the occasion.”

Penn State got one run back of their own in the fourth off of Johnson’s double, but Kent State went on to put up three unanswered runs in the fifth and sixth innings to enter the seventh inning with an 8-4 advantage.

Speers launched another home run in the sixth, her second of the day and seventh of the season.  She finished the game going 3-4 with two home runs and three RBI’s.  The Kent State hit leader, however, was leadoff batter Kennadie Goth who went 4-5 with a triple and a run scored. 

“It’s good to see [the clutch hitters] really stay relaxed and come through,” Lehotak said. 

The seventh inning started in the cleanup spot with Johnson who was able to reach on a single and Legg behind her reaching on a walk, which set the stage for Polk with two runners on base.  Polk proceeded to hit her first home run of the season and pull the Nittany Lions within one. 

With all the momentum on their side, Penn State sent nine batters to the plate in the seventh inning and capped off with an RBI single from Dani Fey to send the game to extra innings.

“Offensively, [today] was the most relaxed I’ve seen our offense,” Lehotak said.

Penn State’s Madison Shaffer kept the Golden Flashes down in relief of Cummings, who had three strikeouts and only one walk in her five innings of work.

After trading two-run innings in the eighth, Cummings reentered the circle to keep Kent State scoreless in the ninth and give the Nittany Lions a chance at the win in the bottom half of the inning.  Fey hit a double to lead off the inning, and in the blink of an eye Dubois was able to bring her in with a double of her own to right field and secure the series win.

“This is the first weekend where I feel like they breathed, and we’re more themselves,” Lehotak said.

Penn State has a mid-week doubleheader up next against Hofstra to continue their ten-game homestand, and Kent State returns home for a doubleheader of their own against Youngstown State. 

 

Joe Skinner is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism.  To contact him, email jcs6108@psu.edu.