Just days after securing its worst season-opening record in program history, Penn State’s fortunes changed with one game.
The Nittany Lions dropped their first three contests of a four-game series at Nebraska, but the blue and white shocked the Cornhuskers in the fourth battle Sunday with its first win of the year. Now, Penn State has a 1-15 record.
The Cornhuskers dominated the first three games of the series, mercy-ruling the Nittany Lions twice and outscoring them 27-4. However, in the final game, Penn State edged out Nebraska 7-5 in extra innings.
Here’s three takeaways following the blue and white’s first win of the 2021 campaign.
Big innings continue to hurt Nittany Lions
All season long, big innings have plagued the Nittany Lions, and this series was no different. The Cornhuskers scored at least three runs in five different innings in this series.
In the first game, the Cornhuskers’ offense exploded, scoring more than three runs in two separate innings in the second and fourth frames. In that fourth inning, Nebraska would plate five runs and see seven different players come to bat, hitting two home runs in that inning.
This trend would continue in Game 2 as Nebraska would score four runs in the third inning and three runs in the fourth. The Cornhuskers did a good job of capitalizing when the Nittany Lions’ pitchers made a mistake, as they hit two home runs, a triple and a double in two innings.
In Game 3, Nebraska’s offense exploded and scored eight runs in the fourth off of Penn State starter Vanessa Oatley. It was a manageable 2-0 deficit heading into the inning, but that deficit soon ballooned to 10-0 and the game was over.
The Penn State pitchers did a good job in the final game of the series to not allow that big inning, as they never allowed more than one run to score.
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A month into its season, Penn State can finally say it has won a contest.
Future fielding improvement
Winning teams tend to do everything well, whether it be hitting, pitching or fielding. For the Nittany Lions, the last aforementioned component of the game is one of the biggest reasons for their struggle this season. Put simply, the blue and white does not field well.
In the Nebraska series, Penn State committed six errors, including three in the final game of the series and at least one in the other three contests. Nebraska capitalized on those errors, as three of the runs it scored in the series came from players who reached base due to errors.
Committing those mistakes is hardly a recipe for success, as it allows the other team to put more runners on base and, in turn, have more chances to score. Not to mention, the pitching staff would have to throw additional unnecessary pitches.
To win more games this season, the blue and white will be best served to improve its fielding.
Offense finally comes alive
In the Nittany Lions’ first 15 games of the season, they only scored three or more runs three times with five runs being the most produced in a game. However, that all changed Sunday as the offense exploded for seven runs.
The blue and white was carried by the top of its lineup as Maggie Finnegan, Melody Coombs and Chelsea Bisi went a combined 8-for-13 with three RBIs.
Leading the charge for the blue and white was the freshman Coombs. On the day, she had four hits, including a solo home run in the fourth inning.
Finnegan did a great job getting on base as the leadoff hitter. She finished the day with two hits while also scoring twice. Finnegan also scored the opening run of the game as she crossed home plate on a passed ball.
Bisi also collected two hits on the day and drove in two runs. She singled in the eighth inning, which scored two runners and ended up being the game-winning hit for the Nittany Lions.
If Penn State wants to build off its first win, its offense will be the catalyst for continued success.