Penn State Splits Home-Opening Doubleheader
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – Penn State (2-18) did not let a close 6-5 Game 1 loss affect their performance in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Beard Field. The Nittany Lions picked up a split with Kent State (12-8), earning a 6-5 win in Game 2.
Saturday’s games were the official home openers for Penn State, and head coach Amanda Lehotak was excited for her team to return home after 18 straight road games to open the season.
“You have no idea what it’s like to be gone for so many games and come back home; so we thank all the fans,” Lehotak said. “Sometimes you just can’t get the big hit, like Game 1, we got the big hit Game 2 and I love our attitude, we don’t quit.”
Penn State found themselves in a hole early on in Game 1, after a leadoff triple and two doubles powered Kent State to 5-0 first inning lead.
Paige Johnson’s three-run homer to right-center restored momentum for the Nittany Lions, who cut the deficit to 5-3 in the bottom of the first. The round-tripper was Johnson’s second of the season.
Penn State continued its’ offensive momentum into the bottom of the second, loading the bases with one out. However, those runners ended up stranded after a strikeout and groundout to third ended the inning.
Even when Kent State extended its’ lead to 6-3 in the top of the third, the Nittany Lions fought back. Tori Dubois singled up the middle, bringing two runs across the plate to pull Penn State within one, 6-5.
Kent State pitcher Madi Huck retired the Penn State side in the bottom of the seventh, clinching a Game 1 victory for the Golden Flashes.
The Nittany Lions settled in after the result of Game 1, powering ahead to Game 2 in hopes of finding a way to win in front of the energetic Beard Field crowd. Penn State avoided repeating the start of Game 1 behind solid pitching from Madison Shaffer, playing the Golden Flashes to three scoreless innings.
Shaffer couldn’t hold for much longer, though, as Bailey Brownfield smacked a triple off the center field wall and brought two runs in. Kent State took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth.
Again, it was a home run which brought Penn State back into the game, as Delaney Elling’s two-run shot sailed high over the left-field wall. The play tied the game at 2-2, making Elling’s first home run of the season worthwhile.
“I feel like I needed that, and offensively we needed that,” Elling said. “It was great to have it happen here at Beard Field.”
Penn State capitalized on the momentum, bringing in three more runs off doubles by Paige Johnson, Destiny Weber and Dani Fey. This gave the Nittany Lions a 5-2 lead through four innings of play.
After Dubois crossed the plate on a wild pitch to extend Penn State’s lead to 6-2, Kent State made things interesting by scoring two runs on four hits in the top of the sixth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Lehotak called on the senior pitcher and Game 1 starter Jess Cummings to relieve Shaffer. She delivered, striking out Brenna Brownfield to strand three Golden Flashes.
While Kent State pulled within one on a past ball in the top of the seventh, Cummings held her own as a reliever, striking out Kaitlyn Miller, stranding the tying run on first to secure the 6-5 win.
Penn State returns to action Sunday at Beard Field, playing Kent State for the third time this weekend. The Nittany Lions improved to 2-18 overall with Saturday’s win.
Matt Freiler is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.