After enduring a tough six-run loss Friday night, Penn State turned to the weekend to have another go at one of the nation's best teams.
Playing No. 19 Michigan in a Saturday doubleheader, the Nittany Lions endured another forgettable afternoon, dropping the first and second games 10-0 and 12-2, respectively.
With Kylee Lingenfelter in the circle for the blue and white, the first game began well on defense with Michigan being retired in order. In the latter half of the frame, Chelsea Bisi reached on a walk but was stranded.
But Michigan’s offense found its way in the second, with Taylor Bump notching a one-run home run for the game’s first score. Two more Wolverines recorded hits in the inning, but each of them were stranded.
After a scoreless third inning, Michigan recorded four more hits in the fourth, resulting in two more runs to increase its lead to three with as many innings to play.
The Wolverines’ offense continued this surge into the fifth, rattling off two more with a combination of hits and runs as their lead grew to five. One inning later, the same offense firmly tightened its grip on the Nittany Lions, dialing up five more hits to score as many runs, en route to a 10-0 lead.
After a Michigan pitching change, Penn State recorded its first hits in the sixth, with back-to-back hits from Melina Livingston and Kennedy Legg. That would be all though, and the mercy rule was enacted at the end of the inning to confirm a 10-0 loss for the home squad.
The second game began with Michigan having hardly lost a beat, plating four runners on five hits, including another home run from Bump. The Wolverines loaded the bases after the fourth run, but all three runners were stranded.
Michigan dialed up three more hits in the second, with one more runner coming across, but a double play from Penn State helped quickly end the inning.
The third inning went better for Penn State, with the Nittany Lions loading the bases in part due to hits from Maggie Finnegan and Kaitlyn Morrison. However, a double play from Michigan stranded the runners before any could come across.
After a scoreless fourth inning from both sides, Michigan added one more run in the fifth to increase its lead to six. In that inning, the Nittany Lions again loaded the bases, and that time managed to put two runs across, thanks to a two-RBI single from Melody Coombs.
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Michigan then had another explosive sixth inning, recording six runs on four hits, including a home run, to expand its lead to 10. Three straight Penn State outs followed, leading to another mercy rule finish, this time by a score of 12-2.
Storako proves to be tough in first game
Entering the series, Michigan pitcher Alex Storako presented a firm challenge for Penn State.
Leading the Big Ten in both ERA and strikeouts, Storako indeed was problematic for the blue and white, as 11 Nittany Lions were struck out during her five innings in the first leg. Livingston and Legg’s hits came off of Sarah Schaefer, who entered the game in the sixth.
With Penn State still searching for offensive consistency, Saturday’s result was not what was needed. The blue and white will hope to find an answer Sunday to Michigan’s strength in the circle, be it Storako or not.
Michigan offense potent in both games
Kylee Lingenfelter started in the circle for Penn State, and managed to record six strikeouts, but Michigan’s offense kept applying pressure.
With Lingenfelter pitching the first leg’s first five innings and Logan Black the sixth, the Wolverines rattled off 14 hits, and scored two or more runs in each of the last three innings.
The second game was not much different, with Michigan’s four-run first inning setting the stage for its 12-run, 15-hit affair against Oatley.
It’s difficult for any team to stop an offense of Michigan’s caliber, but to avoid being swept, the pitching corps will have to do just that Sunday.
Back to the drawing board for series finale
After three straight misfortunate games, Penn State still has one more shot at Michigan Sunday.
With Penn State being out-hit 29-6 while committing three defensive errors Saturday, it was not an afternoon to build upon.
The strength of its opponent was further established, and the blue and white will have to elevate both its offense and defense, for Sunday’s finale.
Although the offense showed potential later in the second leg, it will need to produce a significantly better effort in the series finale.
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